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IT’s New Machine Learning Strategy

At its core, technology exists to make certain tasks faster, cheaper, and easier to perform, all while delivering better results. Machine Learning (ML) is no different; the task it optimizes is identifying improvements and solving problems. From Netflix to Salesforce to Twitter, many of the world’s largest and most valuable companies are investing heavily in ML, betting on its value with their bottom lines. In fact, analysts expect corporations to commit $12.3 billion to machine learning by 2026, up nearly 5x from the $2.5 billion spent in 2017. But what about everyone else – all those companies that don’t have billions of dollars to commit to hiring ML engineers, developing proprietary AI, and building their own ML programs? How can we democratize ML so that even the smallest and most ambitious companies can get into the game and start using ML to improve how they do business? That’s where Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS) comes in. Offering ready-made tools that can be easily adopted and fitted to various business needs, MLaaS removes many of the barriers that previously prevented smaller companies and their teams from tapping into the power of ML, including time, budget, and – most importantly – the ability to code. No-Code MLaaS democratizes the power of machine learning  No-code platforms like AppSheet are the backbone of MLaaS, and for good reason. With a no-code platform, anyone — regardless of their technological prowess or experience — can build robust applications that are driven by ML algorithms to solve problems, increase productivity, and deliver a healthier bottom line. These no-code development platforms extend the power of software development beyond the IT department to empower non-technical employees like business leads, employees who run on-the-ground processes, and subject matter experts to create customized business applications without writing code.  Equipped with no-code development platforms, “citizen developers” play pivotal roles in building apps that help move their teams and companies forward. Empowering non-technical workers to build their own solutions also frees up IT to focus on key strategic objectives, and helps eliminate the knowledge gap so that the workers closest to the problems are equipped to solve them directly, no matter their level of technical experience. 4 steps to unlocking your MLaaS strategy With the democratizing power of MLaaS and a no-code platform like AppSheet, you can embark on a new IT strategy that future-proofs your organization’s tech stack from the ground up and delivers continuous optimizations to every facet of your operations. Here are four key tips for unlocking IT’s new MLaaS strategy: Plan No-code MLaaS can optimize mission-critical processes across your entire organization. That’s a powerful prospect. The technology gives business leaders the insights and ability they need to revamp old tech stacks and future-proof companies from the ground up without re-starting at square one. No-code platforms make it easy for all employees to create custom applications that enable app creators and app users to tap directly into data sources. For example, data resting in a spreadsheet or database can be surfaced for strategic trends and predictive insights that can help shape that department’s strategy.  This direct connection between the data and the non-technical workforce enables citizen developers to transform the way work gets done, fully automating tasks and eliminating process gaps. But no-code doesn’t leave IT in the dark. Quite the contrary. The IT department establishes and maintains the governance guardrails for app building organization-wide. Without any coding experience, employees can create apps that not only extend the life and value of your legacy systems, but also bridge the gap between them, making it easier to connect  older systems with newer technologies so your organization can plan for the future and be prepared for whatever’s next. Invest A decision to use a no-code platform is an investment in your organization and IT department. MLaaS eliminates the pressure of developing ML systems and constantly creating and testing new business apps through the IT team’s workflow, relieving the strain on over-stretched developers. This frees up time for IT to focus on what they do best: Keeping critical processes and strategic initiatives humming at maximum efficiency. With MLaaS, the role of planning and execution moves from the IT and development teams to the people across your organization who know your company’s challenges best – from sales and marketing to HR and operations – all while supporting technical innovation and organizational growth. Evangelize The next step in any MLaaS strategy is to identify early adopters in your organization and get them on board. Who will see the most benefits from creating no-code apps? And how can you sell them on this solution? The key here is to help them understand the game-changing value of solving problems at an unprecedented scale by thinking creatively and building their own solutions. No-code MLaaS puts the control back in the hands of your employees, harnessing untapped problem-solving potential. Everyone across your company can perform better when they feel that leadership empowers them to make decisions and equips them with the tools they need to succeed. That’s exactly what we mean when we talk about the democratizing power of MLaaS. Iterate ML apps get smarter the more they’re used; that’s why it’s called Machine Learning. And the people who create these apps do, too. Perhaps the most important step in any MLaaS strategy is iteration. ML doesn’t just help your business run better; it continuously surfaces insights about your operations that you may never have even considered. As a result, app creators learn what’s possible and iterate more quickly using MLaaS. That means that your digital transformation isn’t a one-time event; it is a constant, ongoing process of improvement and optimization every single day so that your apps (and the people who create them) will perform even better tomorrow than they did yesterday.

Reducing Technical Debt, the No-code Way

Nearly 80% of Americans currently carry debt. Whether purchasing a home, paying for school, or simply managing the costs of day-to-day living, loans allow people to get something now in exchange for repaying the sum later, with interest. Technical debt, a software development concept coined by Ward Cunningham in 1992, plays on the concept of monetary debt to describe a common trade-off faced by software development teams across the globe: the trade-off of time. Just like one might take out a loan to enter a booming real estate market before being priced out, technical debt is sometimes used as a tool to get ahead when constraints on time outweigh the need for thorough code quality and review. “With borrowed money, you can do something sooner than you might otherwise,” explained Cunningham, “but until you pay back that money, you’ll be paying interest.” Applied to software development, technical debt is incurred to speed time to launch, and “interest payments” most often surface in the form of developer time — and sometimes their subsequent frustration. Shortcuts in development made to quicken a launch can result in insufficient definitions and lack of process, documentation, and testing, as well as delayed refactoring, poor integration, and spec changes. “I thought borrowing money was a good idea, I thought that rushing software out the door to get some experience with it was a good idea,” said Cunningham, “but, of course, you eventually… repay that loan by refactoring the program to reflect your experience as you acquired it.” Like financial debt, technical debt is difficult to fully remediate once incurred, and must be thoughtfully planned for and sustainably addressed to avoid further loss of time, budget, and team morale. Revisiting code to “pay off” technical debt can take days, weeks, or even months of developer time, and the debt can continue to grow if not properly addressed. For example, debt in the form of parallel development can result in weeks of lost hours and reams of useless code. While time and budget are often the most visible indicators of technical debt, employee morale is a more subtle, yet costly consequence, and can affect technical and non-technical employees alike. Technical debt can cause teams to struggle with aligning on business priorities, distributing knowledge across teams, and assigning ownership. If not properly managed, the frustrations caused by technical debt can lead to employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and eventual turn-over. Furthermore, technical debt can inhibit a company’s ability to plan for the future. Due to the fluid and interconnected nature of software development, fixes meant to take hours can end up taking weeks or months, and developers engaged on forward-looking projects may need to spend their time paying off debt incurred by a previous release. When technical debt spirals in this way, companies become bogged down in the present (and the past), which prevents them from planning for the future. Instead, these companies spend time, money, and employee energy reprogramming buggy code. To reduce the steady attrition of resources incurred by technical debt, companies are turning to a number of solutions, including no-code development platforms. No-code development platforms like AppSheet help to reduce fresh technical debt and mitigate existing debts by equipping every employee with the technology they need to achieve their development goals without sacrificing future time or resources. With a no-code platform, companies: Reduce reliance on legacy code: Legacy code manages to create huge technical debt within organizations, as it must be reworked and integrated into any new app or emerging piece of software. No-code development platforms like AppSheet help to eliminate reliance on legacy code (and the integration issues that come with it) through modern, easy-to-use development tools that not only speed the process of app creation nearly ten fold, but also place the power to create in the hands of every employee – not just those with advanced coding knowledge. Remove trivial items from IT’s plate: IT teams have enough to do already. No-code development platforms empower non-technical employees to solve uncomplicated tasks on their own so that IT can focus on reviewing and eliminating debt for more complicated or legacy code that requires the finesse of expert developers. No-code platforms allow IT to remove themselves from quality assurance and testing so they can focus on reworking fundamental legacy code.  Invest in every employee: No-code development platforms allow companies to build a league of citizen developers — employees who are non-technical but still able to create business apps, given the right tools. While the average salary for software developers is quite high, no-code platforms more affordably provide the power of development to all employees regardless of technical skill to ensure that teams can do more with less as time goes on. Enable app evolution: Apps, particularly those that rely on legacy code, tend to become rigid and outdated over time. No-code development platforms are easily customizable so that apps can fluidly evolve with use. As app use grows and changes, app creators can update their apps quickly — and without technical debt. Technical debt is as common as monetary debt, and is a trade-off that many teams and companies take to quicken time to launch. But by embracing no-code development platforms, companies can reduce their reliance on legacy code and empower every employee to build future-proofed apps that evolve with use — no trade-offs (or debt) required. 

No-Code Development Saves Time and Money by Bridging the IT-Business Gap

Virtually every business is now digital in some form or other, with organizations heavily relying on digital systems and tools to engage internally and externally. As a result, IT teams play a key role in most large- and many medium-sized companies. But businesses that weren’t born digital — including those in traditional industries such as manufacturing, utilities, and construction — often struggle to bridge the gap between business and IT teams.  No-code platforms can help those on the business side easily build and maintain key apps, reducing development and communications churn, saving money, and creating more relevant user experiences. At the same time, often-overburdened IT department are freed up to focus on mission-critical network and infrastructure initiatives.  Save time and communications churn with no-code App development can be a time-consuming, inbox-filling experience; and many companies spin their wheels as IT and business teams try to align on development. Like the analogy of too many cooks in the kitchen, app development initiatives often have too many voices at the table, working at cross purposes as they try to define requirements, design the user experience, and develop a solution that meets everyone’s goals and needs.  Since no-code platforms do not require coding skills, business teams can autonomously build and deploy a wide array of data-based apps to support everything from inventory and asset management to hiring streams and business process workflows — without relying on IT to get the job done. With the right no-code platform, apps can be built in as little as a day (vs. the months-long process typical in cross-functional app development efforts).  Off-the-shelf is often off-the-mark IT teams often rely on off-the-shelf software or pre-written codebases to build apps that serve the widest possible audience. But those apps often don’t support the specific needs of the teams that license them.  With no-code development, people in any area of the company — from HR and finance to marketing and sales — can easily build apps that are customized for their team, processes, data, and goals. Instead of purchasing a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t quite solve downstream needs, teams can now build, launch, and update their apps as needs evolve. Doing more with less (IT support) Often, apps are costly to build due to the sheer amount of IT development time involved. And in a landscape where demand for skilled developers outstrips the available supply of talent, IT teams are often understaffed and paying a premium for their hires. Likewise, the expense of per-user seat licenses for third-party software can be prohibitive (especially if most of the users are only using a fraction of the available features and functionality). No-code development allows companies to build the specific apps they need without absorbing costly developer hours or investing in large-scale SaaS tools. For instance, companies with a vast array of equipment and other hard assets may spend upwards of $11,000 per user for broad-spectrum, off-the-shelf enterprise asset management (EAM) software. Yet, with no-code, those same activities can be supported at very low cost by building apps for user-, location-, asset-, and function-specific needs. And then these apps can be integrated with a centralized reporting app. Stakeholders and users get exactly the functionality they need, while saving not only money but also valuable IT resources that might normally have gone into rolling out a large-scale solution. An added bonus: Instead of the months often needed to train an entire company (including new hires) on a one-size-fits-all solution, you can now quickly train individual teams to work in just the apps they need for their respective jobs. As digital transformation takes hold around the world, no-code platforms are empowering business teams to independently build the apps they need most, while freeing up limited IT resources for more strategic initiatives. No-code is helping companies save significant time and money, while also allowing teams to create the data-based apps they need to support their users more effectively and efficiently. The time is ripe for no-code to shift the way everyone works, from IT to business. Ready to learn more? We are here to help you get started with no-code development!

The Energy Industry and IT: The Three Most Significant Digital Transformation Challenges

As energy companies embrace digital transformation, IT professionals are tasked with the complex challenge of modernizing their companies’ operations. Not only must IT professionals overhaul critical operations, they also have to navigate numerous risks—including maintaining network security, supporting grid stability, and controlling data access, to name a few. On top of that, these upgrades need to occur behind the scenes, without any disruption to customers. Despite these challenges, the energy industry is moving full-steam ahead when it comes to digitalization. Energy industry IT professionals and the companies they represent must adapt with the times. Otherwise, their businesses may become obsolete. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most significant challenges faced by IT professionals in the energy industry today. Harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT) As the cost of IoT devices continues to decrease, energy companies are scrambling to build them into the fold. Cutting-edge IoT technologies like smart meters can lower costs and boost productivity for energy companies. One study, for example, predicts that globally, smart meter implementation will deliver savings of nearly $160 billion. However, some IT professionals are finding it difficult to implement an effective IoT strategy due to limited budgets. The same study indicates that the costs of implementing smart meters will exceed $100 billion. IT professionals also face difficulties when upper management hasn’t fully embraced digital transformation. In order to realize the full promise of a smart grid, for example, many other expensive upgrades have to take place—such as real-time demand response, integrated communications, sensing and measurement, Phasor Measurement Units, and power system automation, to name a few. What’s more, in order to analyze and respond to all of the data that’s being collected from IoT devices, IT professionals must also implement a centralized management platform and cloud storage—and some are feeling overwhelmed about having to store all of that data. Building a positive customer experience Gone are the days when energy consumers were happy plugging in their halogen desk lamps and paying their electric bills at the end of the month. According to Ian Wright, CMO at Deloitte, customers want energy efficiency programs, information, and choices, and they want their energy providers to help with all of these things. Providing choices, information, and transparency to the consumer is a tricky process. In the real world, it means that energy industry IT professionals must build and maintain reliable consumer-facing apps and web portals that allow customers to view energy usage and learn how to optimize their energy consumption. Customers will also expect to be able to contact customer support and securely pay their bills. According to an IBM study, the cost of building a bad app is devastating. Believe it or not, 47% of consumers will switch to the competition and 63% of consumers will tell their friends about their bad experience. All of this responsibility falls directly on energy industry IT professionals. Cybersecurity risks As you might expect, cybersecurity is a major concern among energy industry CEOs and IT professionals. In fact, a recent study by KPMG revealed that 48% of energy industry CEOs estimate they will be targeted by a cyberattack. The Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), advises IT professionals to implement a robust cybersecurity risk management process that includes bi-directional risk information sharing and integrates with the electricity subsector cybersecurity capability maturity model (C2M2). There are also common sense cybersecurity tactics that IT professionals should deploy such as biometric scanning, enacting strong password policies across employee devices, and utilizing next-generation VPN technology, among other things. Why energy industry IT professionals love no-code apps Energy companies of all shapes and sizes are building custom no-code apps to lower costs, bolster security, and increase employee engagement. Not only do no-code platforms enable virtually any employee to create apps that revolutionize their businesses, they also allow for employees to stay connected with management via GPS capture and cloud integration. As an example, M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects off-shore oil and gas buyers and suppliers. The company uses AppSheet to coordinate project management across 100 partnerships in 10 global markets. Another example is Northwest Edison, a smart lighting contractor that uses AppSheet to manage its concurrent projects and track its workflows. To learn more about how AppSheet can be customized to suit your energy business, drop us a line. We look forward to hearing from you!

5 Digital Transformation Challenges Facing IT Departments

A growing number of businesses are investing in digital transformation to become more agile, cost-effective and profitable. A recent study, for example, found that B2B spending on technologies like connected devices and mobile apps will exceed $250B by 2025.  The path to digital transformation, however, is not always a smooth one. And for IT departments in particular, the process can be a big undertaking. Not only do they have to manage their regular workloads, IT departments also need to train other employees on how to use the new tools effectively and safely. But the difficulties don’t stop there. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five greatest obstacles IT departments face as they move digital transformation initiatives forward. 1. Limited budgets Digital transformation doesn’t always come cheap; IT departments often get pushback about the costs associated with rolling out new solutions. Let’s imagine a company has decided to build a custom mobile app. That’s great and all, but hiring developers comes at a high price. The average salary of a full-time software engineer is $103,000, according to Glassdoor. If your company wants to build a custom web application, it could cost between $90,000 and $241,000, with eight developers working full-time on the project, a recent study suggests. With the right approach, however, it’s possible to get started down the path of digital transformation without breaking the bank. No-code app platforms, for example, are helping thousands of companies save money by enabling everyday employees—also known as citizen developers—to create custom apps for their businesses, without any prior coding knowledge and for a fraction of the price. 2. Employee pushback If your workforce consists of millennials—also known as digital natives—you’ll probably receive less pushback. Digital solutions are often a perfectly natural fit for a younger workforce. On the other hand, if your business is in manufacturing, construction or energy—where baby boomers represent a significant percentage of the workforce—you may have a learning curve to deal with. Oftentimes, older workers who have been using paper management systems for decades do not want to use mobile technologies in the field. This shouldn’t stop your digital transformation efforts, though. It may take some effort, and a willingness to change, but sooner or later most employees will come around and see the benefits of using new technologies. One way that you can help ease the transition is to create a training program where tech-savvy employees show others how to use your new technologies. Not only will this help facilitate the learning process, it can also double a great team-building experience, strengthening employee bonds. 3. Fear  Many employees are understandably concerned that new technologies and automated systems will make their jobs obsolete. To overcome this fear, remind employees that the adoption of new technology is essential for business survival and also helps employees learn new skills. The goal of implementing digital technologies, after all, is to remove repetitive tasks from everyday work, such as manually filling out paper forms, time cards, and spreadsheets, among other things. This is a big deal, since a recent study found that 90% of employees are burdened with mundane tasks that could easily be automated to save companies an average of 19 working days per year, per employee. 4. Security While digital transformation delivers a ton of upside to organizations, it also comes with risks. For starters, it can dramatically increase the chances that your IT department experiences a data breach—something that’s already happened to 53% of small- to medium-sized businesses, according to Cisco. The cost of a data breach might also be larger than you’d expect. The Cisco study also revealed that more than 50% of cyber attacks result in financial losses of over $500,000, including lost revenue and missed customer opportunities. The good news is that you can protect your company from these risks by selecting only the most secure, and well-respected solution providers. If you have the budget, you can also consider hiring a full-time cyber security specialist (which 59% of power and utilities CEOs view as the most important new role in their organizations). You should also encourage your IT department to lead training programs that educate your employees about cyber security risks and how to identify ransomware attacks so they are always aware about potential security issues. 5. Communication Digital transformation can have a big impact on an organization. Even something as seemingly small as an app can affect security, finance, production, management, and more. To this end, communication is the cornerstone of successful digital transformation initiatives. In fact, digital transformation often fails when teams bring new solutions and processes into place without communicating with one another. To avoid complications and prevent projects from getting shut down midway through completion, it’s important for key decision makers to discuss objectives and solidify project roles and responsibilities prior to launching an initiative. Choose the path that’s right for your business While the path to digital transformation is not always smooth, with the right approach, your IT department can motivate employees to use new tools while minimizing security risks. If building apps is a part of your team’s digital to-do list, check out this page that outlines how AppSheet keeps data secure while enabling businesses to build custom apps for a fraction of the cost—and in much less time than hiring an outside firm.

The Ultimate Enterprise Mobile App Checklist for CIOs [2019]

Are you planning your 2019 enterprise mobile application strategy? No-code platforms like AppSheet and Zudy and low-code platforms like PowerApps, OutSystems, and Mendix provide users with greater capacity to build, iterate, and deploy mobile applications at scale. Yet amidst the positive potential of digital transformation, IT leaders tasked with overseeing security and governance need to remain thoughtful throughout the planning, deployment, and management process as ill-conceived uses of any tool, no matter how powerful, can result in data breaches and organizational dysfunction. Rather than trying to control the entire purview of an organization's IT activities, forward-thinking IT leaders of today need to embrace the opportunity to leverage citizen developer tools while instituting practical policies and guardrails. The end result is an agile organization capable of responding to line-of-business' changing needs with both decentralized IT operations and appropriate degrees of centralized IT oversight. In this checklist, we'll cover six key phases of the IT-aligned mobile application creation process with a few sample questions in each section. Or, you can jump ahead to secure the entire 70+ question checklist in printable PDF form.  Understanding Constraints Identifying Feature Needs Defining IT Governance Needs Selecting Your Platform Building and Testing Your App(s) Deploying Your App(s)   Understand Constraints In the world of enterprise mobile application needs, no two problems are alike, and no two solutions are alike. Having a clear understanding of your specific objectives and constraints is foundational for any successful mobile app deployment project.  What are your primary business goals relevant to this project? What is the status quo system that you are seeking to replace or augment through a mobile app? Will this app be utilized internally, externally, or both? What is your IT budget, digital transformation budget, and/or mobile app strategy budget? What’s your expected development time frame? Identifying Feature Needs A strong understanding of business objectives and practical constraints will lend itself to a proposed feature list. IT leaders can limit dangerous feature creep by stackranking feature needs to determine the essentials and the bonuses.  Have you spoken with all stakeholders to get their input? What kind of data capture needs do you have (e.g. text, image, signatures, etc.)? What kinds of devices and screen resolutions do you need to support? What features are mission-critical? What features are nice-to-have features? Defining IT Governance Needs Security and governance are important considerations that should be addressed up-front rather than after-the-fact. Taking time to lay out your needs and define policy and procedure up front can help ensure organizational alignment throughout the forthcoming process of operational change. What kinds of authorization tools are needed? Does your app need to comply with existing industry security standards? What kinds of governance tools do you need (analytics, policy compliance, central licensing, etc.)? Selecting Your Platform(s) Most leading platforms contain a wide breadth of features and enterprise solutions. Finding a platform that aligns with your goals can save time and money while creating pathways for future success. Are you making the app in-house or seeking a partner to build it? Are the vendors you’re considering reputable and likely to be in business 5 years from now? What kind of support do the app platforms offer? Building and Testing Your App(s) If you've followed through on carefully defining your goals, constraints, features, IT governance needs, and selected an appropriate platform, then building and testing your apps should be a relatively straightforward process.  Have you tested your app with non-technical users? Does the app still function in unique situations such as low battery, less network coverage, airplane mode, or less storage? What other edge cases might stretch the limits of your app? Deploying Your App(s) Deploying your app is no longer a one-off process but rather an iterative process that will likely contain cycles of feedback and revision from end users. Expect to handle change requests and bug fixes in the first few weeks of operations. What kind of training, if any, will you provide to end-users? Who will be managing your app going forward? Do you have a way to collect feedback from end-users and iterate quickly? Interested in downloading the entire checklist?  

5 Key Practices To Enable Citizen Developers

As the demand for mobile apps escalates and tech users become increasingly tech-savvy, developers are seeing a dramatic shift in the role of IT from being “prescriptive” to “predictive” in nature. While traditional IT departments may tend to demonize citizen development, it can actually be a path to greater success for an organization by empowering others outside of IT to build apps that inspire a culture of problem-solving across the entire organization. The democratization of technology is responsible for driving digital transformation by moving technology decisions once strictly managed by IT departments to the hands of managers, project leaders and other workers who need fast solutions to operational problems through rapid mobile app development (RMAD). The Future of the Traditional IT Department According to IDC research released earlier this year, more than 56 percent of technology budgets are now controlled outside of IT departments. One reason why 56.5 percent of technology spending now happens outside of IT is because the vast majority of business leaders believe they can make better and faster decisions on technology without the involvement of IT. Perhaps not surprisingly then, Forrester Research predicts the IT department could disappear as soon as 2020. While that may be a stretch, it’s still clear IT will need to keep evolving to stay ahead of new technologies and incorporate agile solutions to keep organizations competitive, connected and collaborative. The Emergence of Citizen Developers The 2015 State of Citizen Developer Report  from QuickBase demonstrated how the emergence of citizen developers in organizations marks a paradigm shift in how the Business and IT work together to build, customize and connect cloud apps to achieve their collective business goals. Cloud apps and their associated platforms are increasingly becoming the drivers of digital transformation, with the ultimate aim of increasing operational efficiency, business agility, and employee productivity. In particular, as highlighted in the report, 76 percent of respondents said operational efficiency is the primary reason that their organizations use low-code rapid development platforms for digital transformation. As a distant second, 13 percent of respondents said business agility was the primary reason, while only eight percent named employee productivity. "The workplace of the future is driven by self-selection - someone having the skills stepping to solution," as Allison Mnookin, CEO of citizen development platform Quickbase, explained. Mike Morris of crowd sourcing platform TopCoder , says that "A workplace is a perk" and that "Organizations need to find the best person in the world that can help provide a solution." So either bring new digital tools to your workforce and let them step up to solution, or bring the best skills from the outside to solution for you. Key Practices To Enable Citizen Developers To enable citizen developers, five key practices are necessary in any organization: CIO sponsorship to ensure that IT works with those outside of IT to develop appropriate solutions. This prevents IT from viewing those applications developed by citizen developers as rogue IT. CIOs that are not on board may communicate that these programs are contributing to enterprise data landfills or creating new data governance challenges. Formal definition and communication of a strategy.  Be sure that the organization is aligning its approach and priorities when it comes to app development. This will ensure that each department is not pursuing a different platform, that programs are successful across departments, and that new apps created by citizen developers do not add more complexity than value. Establish the development practices and lifecycle for these new applications. These guidelines should establish review policies, maintenance guidelines and practices, naming conventions and documentation, UX/UI standards, testing protocols, and security requirements for any platforms or apps developed by citizen developers. Identify the acknowledged Citizen Developers. Be sure to quantify the necessary skills to become one, take steps to engage managers and support the program, and provide training, mentorship, and rewards to successful developers. Create a rubric for success that supports and shares best practices. Market, promote, and provide access to successfully developed applications. Create a standard that can easily be followed that will allow others to find these apps through a consistent access and permissions policy. Empowering Citizen Development Alec Sprague, database developer for non-profit organization Work for Progress, has instituted a culture of citizen development by empowering it. He explained, “Our organization is scrappy. We operate on shoestring budgets to maximize our benefit to society and our return-on-investment for our funders and donors.” That means turning to the employees who can get the work done. “My job is to motivate and inspire people and give them the right tools to do their jobs. The fact that 68 percent of all IT projects fail underscores the need for bottom-up system creation.” That’s where citizen developers come in, he explains. “you need to empower them by giving permission, space, and tools,” and look for intersections within groups and segments in the organization to allow them to succeed.

4 Ways to Cut IT Costs by Making Your Own Apps

Regardless if your IT department is in-house or outsourced, technology is a vital part of any modern day business. If your website, computer network or apps go awry, your business will instantly come to a standstill. It’s no wonder that in a recent survey involving 1,121 IT pros across various sectors, it was reported that the average IT budget was $253,389. The average IT spending per employee ranged from $2,770 for small businesses with 19 or fewer employees to $698 for large companies with over 500 employees (average $1,526). As a business owner or manager, you know what a big investment good tech support is, but are there ways to decrease this large expense? After all, you may be restructuring your budget for the New Year with considerations like determining where money is possibly being wasted and if there are lower cost options for expensive services. Did you know that spreadsheet-based apps can help you to lower IT costs? 1. IT Efficiency A computer will crash. Programs will have bugs in them. There’s a good chance your network may get hacked. But like many things in life, time is money and time wasted is money wasted. An IT ticketing and issue tracking system app ensures that there is a protocol in place for the requests coming in and that the most urgent problems can rise to the forefront of IT’s attention. When a mobile form is constructed with the required information fields listed, excess emails or texts are eliminated and communication becomes more efficient. In fact, research from strategic advisory service Hackett Group showed that “the most efficiently run IT departments spend 21% less per user than typical companies and rely on 8% fewer staff.” 2. Track IT Expenses When projects are tracked and segmented, it makes finding those critical budget leaks much easier. The same thing applies to your IT department. Creating an app that tracks the time spent on specific assignments can help to pinpoint the inefficiencies in your network or program. For example, if a programmer keeps getting contacted by your employees to fix the same problem over and over, maybe it’s time to invest in new, updated software to save on overall long-term IT costs. 3. IT Manual Many times your IT department is probably overburdened with the same basic questions: Why can’t I connect to the Internet? Why is my computer running so slow? How do I do ____________ function? How do I backup my files in the cloud? While it may take a few hours to write answers to the most common questions, it can save you immeasurable time and money in the end by using a simple app creator to create an IT manual. You can list the issues by topic and then fill in step-by-step actions to take with screenshots to make the process easier. See AppSheet’s New Employee Set Up app as a good place to start. 4. Low Cost Customized Apps (Without an IT Department) According to Calcote Laramie, professional business advisor, these are the average costs to make an iOS or Android App from the top app development companies in the world: Hyperlink Infosystem: $7,000 to $30,000 Fueled: $100,000 to $300,000 Dom & Tom: $80,000 to $150,000 Softway Solutions: $100,000 to $250,000 Plastic mobile: $110,000 to $300,000 For just a fraction of these costs, anyone on your staff can create a customized app for the variety of purposes that your company needs. App builders are low cost, simplified and instead of complicated wire frames and coding, they can be uploaded using common cloud platform databases. Cutting costs doesn’t mean cutting functionality, quality or performance. Implementing the right apps can help you to manage your company, your budget, and your progress for the New Year.

4 Challenges Every IT Department Faces — and How Mobile Apps Can Help

With the ever-expanding technology climate we’re living in today, the job descriptions of IT managers seem to be increasing at an equivalent rate. Technology professionals are no longer limited to simply ‘fixing the bugs.’ They must perform tasks to keep organized and efficient, but these tasks often seemingly have nothing to do with technology at all. At larger companies, IT professionals are often also inventory managers, tasked with tracking IT equipment in and around the office. They’re project managers, tackling the various technical requests of stakeholders within the company. They’re training experts, helping new employees set up their workstations and accounts. And much more.  Businesses must modernize their methods in order to keep up with increasing demands on their tech teams. Mobile apps for IT professionals are effective tools that can help automate procedures and keep everyone in sync with the latest information. Below we’ve outlined four scenarios many tech teams encounter along with a mobile app that can help streamline the process. The best part-- you can copy and customize the apps for free! Tracking equipment Mobile devices, monitors, hard drives, oh my! Expensive equipment that is routinely loaned to employees should be carefully tracked in order to maintain precise asset records and curtail unnecessary spending. With countless gadgets and a robust workforce, it’s impossible to keep accurate records by memory. Using paper and pen is almost as trivial. Our Equipment Inventory sample app helps address this scenario. The app divides its views by the employee who checked out an item in question, by type of equipment, and then shows all check-out instances in one view. It features images of the equipment as well as a “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” icon to indicate if the item has been verified by IT. The app also allows for convenient barcode scanning of each item. IT ticketing Not only is it tough to keep track of employee requests, it’s also often difficult to translate non-IT employees’ interpretation of problems they’re facing. Information is useless on both sides if there isn’t a streamlined way to present problems and give clear, understandable instructions to solve them. In order to avoid randomization, consider our IT Ticketing sample app. The IT Ticketing app allows employees to submit requests and gives them succinct options to indicate the type of issue. This allows the department to route tickets accordingly, saving time for further explanation later on. Each time an employee submits a request, an email notification is sent to the IT stakeholder in question. Slices in the app allow IT users to see only the information pertaining to them. Onboarding new employees No IT manager has time to help each new employee set up her workstation and register for a company email account. This process must be straightforward and simple so IT can be as unfettered from superfluous requests as possible. The New Employee Setup sample app can be given to each new hire to guide them through setting up various devices and accounts. Each UX view represents a different setup process aided by helpful pictures and instructions. Include as many views as you need to detail each process employees might need assistance with during their tenure. Keeping organized So you’ve created several apps to help your IT team be more efficient. But if you can’t keep the apps organized, what was the whole point?! We recomment an app launcher that houses all of the IT apps, so you can keep track of your apps and so employees will only need to enact a one-time download. App launchers can be used for any scenario, team, project, or company that needs to keep categories of apps all in one place. If you’re an IT manager, consider creating a suite of mobile apps you can give to each employee to help them interact with your department more effectively. New tools can help you take focus off process and keep it where it belongs-- on improving the technology that advances your business. Download our B2E App Guide for a full phased approach on how to successfully launch business apps at your organization.