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The New WFH C-Suite: Communication, Collaboration, Connectivity, and Culture

If you’re like the majority of workers today, you’re reading this article from home. Many businesses have had to make speedy decisions and transitions, including implementing mandatory work from home (WFH) policies and giving employees the tools they need to get their jobs done remotely. While telecommuting has been on the rise (increasing by 159% between 2005 and 2017) our new “normal” has left many organizations scrambling to come up with ways to manage distributed teams. Meanwhile, some employees are also floundering, trying to figure out how to quickly adopt new technologies all while having to juggle and manage changes in the home. We’re all starting to feel the stretch. While WFH comes with some challenges, companies like AppSheet are rising to the challenge — providing tools, online plugins, and resources to help teams not only survive, but thrive. Quick transitions Many businesses that historically haven’t had remote workers are having to suddenly manage a distributed workforce. Nearly overnight, entire organizations have had to shut down office doors and have everyone work from their home offices (if they’re lucky), dining room tables, and living room couches. Employees are struggling to stay focused and productive during normal business hours while also having to help kids transition to distant schooling or having to care for others who may be in or outside their immediate home. And worldwide pandemic aside, there are inherent issues with working from home. Let’s dive in. Communication Communication can be a challenge, even when everyone’s working from the same location. Factor in essential staff working in the office or field while others work from their makeshift home offices, and communication becomes more crucial than ever. This is especially true with fast-changing policies, shifting work priorities, and employees who may be struggling with social isolation or other ramifications of the quarantine. Online communication and project management tools, video conferencing, emails, IMs, and more are mission-critical. And providing ways to effectively communicate with large and small audiences alike is a must. Collaboration Employees may also have a difficult time with remote meetings and collaboration if they’re used to face-to-face interactions. Nearly overnight, teams that are used to rallying around a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas or collaborate are having to find new workarounds. Organizations of all sizes and industries have to provide the online tools, applications, and resources their employees need to not only get their work done but to also foster creativity and collaboration across newly distributed teams.. Connectivity How often do you say or hear, “How about now? Can you hear me?” The ability to communicate and collaborate online entirely now depends on employees’ IT infrastructure at home, and many aren’t set up to access online services securely from home. Some homes aren’t equipped with enough bandwidth to reliably access large files or stream video conference with colleagues without bringing their Internet to a crawl. Do you have a contingency plan for when your company’s VPN isn’t working or when WiFi isn’t available at workers’ remote locations? You need a strategy to help staff do their jobs whether they’re online, offline, or some combination of both. Culture When you don’t have proper communication and aren’t collaborating well, workplace culture can suffer. In fact, simply lacking a central physical gathering place (like the iconic water cooler) can damage morale, and in turn, your company culture. Meme-sharing on Slack, Zoom happy hours, and Google Hangouts get-togethers make up for the lack of in-person interactions to a large extent, but be mindful of the sudden change in interactions that may have some people thrown. Provide creative, virtual social outlets and opportunities for letting off steam and for simply communicating and connecting — no matter where people are based. How AppSheet can help We recently held an Office Hours webinar to demonstrate how key features of AppSheet can support remote workforces and improve productivity. Because AppSheet allows anyone to create apps without any coding (or IT team reliance), team members can still build and maintain apps from their new home office and keep everyone on the same page during these difficult times. Here’s a recap of what the AppSheet team covered during the webinar: Onboarding Add an onboarding experience to your no-code app to give users a place to start – especially when you add new assignments, functionality, or roles and responsibilities for remote workers. Maybe you have a new team of volunteers handing out food and supplies for the first time. Adding onboarding details can help them understand how to use the app and properly track what they’ve distributed and where. Or perhaps you have a project management app and need to help your offsite team understand how to review and check off completed tasks. Onboarding is an easy way to support first-time users, as well as return-users who may be seeing an updated version of your app. Offline capabilities Not all of your remote users will have a stable internet connection throughout the day (or even have any access to it at all). For situations like these, AppSheet’s Offline Use functionality helps keep your app users connected even when they aren’t. AppSheet lets you control how the app behaves – whether your data loads every time the app opens, when data syncs are delayed, or if it’s accessible offline. And since remote workers may rely on mobile devices for access, AppSheet allows you to  select online syncing options so your users can save their valuable mobile data by only using WiFi to sync when their access is restored. Commenting Communication is key to collaboration. Depending on your app, you may want to consider adding AppSheet’s commenting functionality, which allows users to share feedback on specific projects within your application. This can be incredibly useful for any kind of project management or task-driven application. It’s as simple as creating a table in Google Sheets and then toggling between a handful of settings on your AppSheet interface. Notifications Reliable message delivery is another important part of both communication and collaboration. AppSheet provides several options for alerting and notifying your users, including email and SMS text messages. You can also set up push notifications. Think about what works best for your team and organization, what will enhance their ability to communicate and collaborate across locations, and how to best keep them informed and up to date. Dynamic sizing AppSheet also supports dynamic sizing across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, ensuring that no matter what technology your users have, they receive the best possible experience. As we’ve learned with Covid-19, anything can happen, and we may not always have a lot of lead time to prepare for big changes in the way we live and work (together or apart). Make sure you’re thinking about what your team will need even beyond these next few months so you’re ready for any challenges ahead. The collaboration tools you put into place today will help prepare your organization for tomorrow. Visit our COVID-19 support page to learn more about how you can use AppSheet to help response efforts.

How Mobile Apps Can Increase Your Construction Site Productivity

Finding ways to increase productivity at the work site is a major concern for many construction company owners. Often, there is a lack of standardization across construction teams; workers complete tasks differently, find shortcuts to get things down quicker, and record data often by hand. Adopting mobile apps is a great way to solve a lot of these problems while also offering powerful and flexible tools for workers to add to their tool-belt.  Many contractors are using (or building their own) apps for project management. One benefit of project management mobile apps is reducing the amount of paper needed on a job - especially drawings. Mobile apps are not only reducing the need for so much paperwork, but they also are centralizing your data. In the past, workers might need to fill out paperwork after visiting a site, and then deliver it, fax it, or scan it, when they get to the site office or back to their own. Using Mobile apps allows them to store and send data to everyone who needs it wherever there is a mobile signal. Many existing processes can be automated and provide important information for everyone involved on a construction project. Applications can be designed to track progress of projects to help save time and increase efficiency. Here are some ways mobile apps can help your construction company stay productive and agile in today’s fast-changing market: Better tracking of your job site Adopting a mobile infrastructure for your business doesn't just get rid of paper, it also allows you more flexibility and agility in tracking your workers' work and your assets whereabouts. Theft is a common problem on construction sites, particularly of valuable materials like tools, copper, and aluminum. Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices to track assets via mobile apps can help recover missing or stolen articles, while mobile surveillance can help reduce job site theft and increase employee productivity, especially at remote sites. In addition to the added protection over your job site, mobile tracking allows you to make smarter decisions when allocating resources between multiple sites and workers. Power to your payroll One of the biggest headaches of any business comes from tracking and recording of your workers' hours. Accountability can prove difficult when you're working systems that don't properly document the time in and out. Using mobile apps to file times sheets and process payroll can help boost efficiency, since workers can clock in on their mobile devices and report to work immediately on their mobile devices. Your apps can also give GPS tracking and bio-metric capabilities can also help reduce time fraud. And real-time information can be immediately processed via mobile apps, reducing response time and increasing efficiency. One example of this type of app is SurePayroll, which allows employees to access paychecks and other payroll details at their own convenience, and allows employers to access their payrolls even on the go. Whether it’s paying regular employees or independent contractors, employers can enter payroll, preview, and submit payroll at the touch of a button. Project Management and Collaboration Mobile apps can connect everyone involved on a construction project, from architects to engineers to project managers. Adopting these mobile technologies can help manage activities, employees, information, and processes associated with a given project and even control scheduling. Mobile apps allow project managers to download blueprints, sync information in real-time, and communicate with the job site even when they aren't on-site. One popular app for project management  is the Photo Measures App, which allows users to measure dimensions captured in photos. It has a user-friendly interface, and users can quickly record and save measurement on a frequent basis. Another app that helps reduce planning time and boost efficiency in construction projects is Plan Grid, which allows project managers to easily share plans, markups, photos, and reports with the entire project team from anywhere. PlanGrid can be used with or without an internet connection during construction to track revisions, document progress, and manage issues in the field while keeping everyone on the current set. Mobile Apps Reduce Constructions Costs The construction industry has been seriously challenged by rising costs and declining opportunities, placing increasing pressure on companies to make their processes more cost and time efficient.  According to Go Canvas, statistics show that 50 percent of a worker’s time while on the clock is devoted to wasteful activity caused by poor communication, inadequate management, or over-staffing. Meanwhile, construction companies are losing some $6.9 billion in inefficient processes among operations and maintenance staff, and $1.7 billion to outdated communications like paper forms. And large construction companies can waste some $3.5 million searching for information or recreating documents they couldn’t find. AppSheet can help you customize apps to boost your construction job site productivity and efficiency. Built with Google Sheets and AppSheet, the app automatically captures GPS locations, collections images, and allows customization of the collected data. Here are a couple sample apps that you can play around with to get started: Quote Calculator enables contractors to calculate payment owed based on services rendered, and is a useful tool to quickly and easily calculate costs of services. The app allows users to input numerical data in to the app, calculate and display the results, and save the entry for future recall. Repair Manual is a useful app for any business that needs to provide an instruction manual to employees or customers. This app has step-by-step instructions for repairing dry-wall, with helpful images that demonstrate each step clearly. Timesheet is an app easily tracks log times in and out to compute hours and calculate total wages, providing all necessary information for accounting or human resources departments. This app uses information capture via forms, app formulas, virtual columns, references, and image display. Let AppSheet help you raise the roof on your construction job site with custom mobile apps!  This post was updated on December 9th, 2019.

How SmartD Created Apps to Accelerate Pesquera Exalmar’s Digital Transformation

In recent years, technology has played an increasingly important role in almost every aspect of our lives. The proliferation of technology has had a tremendous impact on the business world. Companies generate more data than ever before. In order to make sense of it all and ensure you’re accessing accurate information at the right time, that data needs to be managed in an efficient and orderly way. This is why more and more companies are starting digital transformation initiatives that enable them to ensure they always have access to the real-time data they need to drive their businesses. Several companies in Peru, for example—including Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A., the country’s third-highest producer of fishmeal—have already started the digital transformation process to increase productivity and efficiency. Courtesy of Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. has 25 years of experience and more than 1,000 employees. The company is responsible for extracting hydrobiological resources, processing and marketing flour, fish oil, and frozen products of marine origin. It has a fleet of 23 fishing vessels, six fishmeal and fish oil plants, and two plants that produce frozen hydrobiological products. Due to the size of the company and the scope of its operations, Pesquera Exalmar generates a ton of data every day. The data comes from various sources and, as such, doesn’t serve as a single source of truth. Some data might be duplicate, obsolete, or inaccurate. Digital transformation commences At the start of 2017, Pesquera Exalmar decided to leverage technology in a way that enables them to digitally manage all of their data. Juan Vega, the company’s CIO, guided the digital transformation process. His main objective was to make the company's core processes—operations and fleet—more productive in order to reduce costs and maximize profits. To accomplish this, he focused on two key areas: Identifying workflows and user requirements; Collecting, organizing, integrating, and analyzing the associated data.  Once that was completed, Vega and his team designed the solution architecture, paying close attention to how the tools would link data stored in various repositories, including spreadsheets, field instruments, other software solutions, and the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Due to the size of the project, it was broken out into stages. Finally, Vega and his team used Microsoft Power BI to manage the data and generate indicators quickly via visualization. Once the digitalization of both the operations and fleet organizations was on track, the company decided to expand its initiative to also include its security and maintenance functions. First, the team identified the processes that could be improved, like safety inspections and the supervision of maintenance projects. To accomplish this, Pesquera Exalmar needed a tool that would help them manage tasks performed in the field more effectively. After doing their due diligence, Vega and his team concluded that mobile apps were the answer to their problems.  Pesquera Exalmar ended up contacting SmartD to create two mobile applications on AppSheet’s no-code platform. Thanks to AppSheet’s flexible design, those apps would also be integrated into the previously created system.  AppSheet, SmartD's strategic partner, is a company that has customers all over the world. AppSheet has been used to build more than 438,000 custom applications for all types of companies. SmartD is AppSheet’s representative in Peru and—with AppSheet’s no-code development platform—designs and implements applications that meet the needs of their clients in a quick and cost-effective manner. Security inspections Pesquera Exalmar operates under the OHSAS 18001:2007 certification, thus ensuring compliance with global occupational safety and health standards. This is why the company continuously generates reports on security inspections in its vessels and offices throughout the country. Prior to AppSheet, generating these reports was a time-consuming, cumbersome task. Each worker involved in the process had to register security inspections and fill out a physical report with observations about the inspection and the corrective and preventative actions that needed to be taken. They’d also have to take pictures with their phones to document the work. Once that was done, the workers would go to their computers, transcribe what was written on their physical report, download the photos from their phones, and create a final report. Altogether, this process took a lot of time that could be used on other important tasks, like planning, training activities, prevention measures, and more. Thanks to AppSheet, the whole process is much smoother. Pesquera Exalmar now uses their SSO Exalmar mobile app to record security inspections with their phones, capture pictures in real time, and add signatures of all people involved. Once a supervisor flags the information as complete, the app automatically sends a PDF report with the push of a button. Users can also access critical information from their phones, such as the number of total inspections, the number of inspections by supervisor, the number of inspections by area, the number of inspections by type, and more. The app also sends alerts and notifications when inspections have been registered and completed. Remotely supervising maintenance work In order to ensure the quality of their operations and the proper functioning of their vessels, Pesquera Exalmar’s fleet receives continuous maintenance. Although maintenance jobs are outsourced, the company still needs to supervise these tasks and monitor progress on a continuous basis. To do this, supervisors are responsible for detecting and recording the necessary maintenance work for the equipment, machines, and systems on the vessels. They also set deadlines so their team knows when projects need to be completed. In the past, all of this work was done manually. Data entry on a computer, in particular, was extremely laborious. Thanks to another new app called Supervisión Mantenimiento, managers can supervise maintenance work from their phones. The mobile app enables supervisors to assign jobs, set deadlines, take pictures, record progress, and more. After the process is complete, a PDF report can be generated with a single tap of a button. What’s more, Supervisión Mantenimiento allows users to see the most crucial data—like total supervisors, supervisions by vessel, supervisions by supervisor, supervisions by state, supervisions by motive, and more. Users also receive notifications on their phones that remind them how many days are left before each deadline Easy to use Though the company knew that mobile apps had the power to transform their operations, Pesquera Exalmar was worried that their operators would have a hard time adapting to the new workflows AppSheet enabled. That wasn’t the case. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar’s mobile apps featured an intuitive design that very clearly enabled employees to do their work in less time. It’s easy for users to navigate their way around the app. And if any employee had a hard time figuring it out, SmartD was there to provide interactive and didactic training. Users could also access the manuals we created if they needed extra help. While the fear of change often causes employees to be wary of new technology, users learned to use the app quickly and had no problems with it. How the data is used Pesquera Exalmar’s staff manages their applications. They can access them from their phone, tablet, or desktop, depending on the user's preference. Generally, phones are used to record information in the field. When there’s a lot of data to edit, the company suggests that its employees use a tablet or a desktop in order to view the data in a complete and detailed way.  Access everywhere It’s not always possible to have internet access. Generally, when workers are on ships, internet connections fail. At best, service is intermittent. With AppSheet's mobile applications, users can make changes that are stored internally on a mobile device until a network connection is available and the data syncs with a cloud-based database, making the information accessible across the entire company.  This feature is very important for the company because it allows them to keep their data in a single database, making it easier to visualize their global indicators in real time and, by extension, make the right decisions. Digital transformation in progress Pesquera Exalmar continues with its digital transformation plan, looking for tools that allow them to manage all of their data in real time.  Moving forward, the company plans to continue using AppSheet’s mobile apps as they streamline data collection and reduce the time spent preparing reports. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar is able to manage all of its data from one central location, ensuring that their employees are able to track data in real time—accelerating their digital transformation journey.  

How to Make a Project Management App in 10 Minutes

  You check emails on your phone in a taxi, at an airport or even in a grocery store. You may also edit documents in word, spreadsheet or PowerPoint while you are on the go. But have you ever thought about managing your projects on your phone?     Project management apps are one of the most popular functional areas for AppSheet creators. That’s because pretty much all of us, at one time or another, manage a project or a number of projects. I am no exception to that rule as my role here requires me to manage a ton of projects and project owners! My project management app helps me to ensure that deadlines are met and that work is distributed evenly. After reviewing many project management apps and creating my own, I’ve realized that there are three critical features every project management app must have. Now your project management app may include a number of “other” bells and whistles but these three features are key to project management success: Group projects by field options such as Owner and Time to easily track projects; Automate schedule notifications to increase productivity; Control access to data so that project owners only see what they need to see, improving the user experience. Data Grouping Makes Tracking the Progress of Projects Easier If you’re like me, a project management spreadsheet might look like pretty similar to the one below. It contains a ton of data but is very difficult to navigate due to the number of columns you are traversing. But in reality, you don’t need to see all the columns—you simply need to access those columns that need to be reviewed or updated based on an action. That’s why you need an app. With it, you can group and view your data by Project Owner, Project Start Time, Status, or even Project Category. So instead of eyeballing and mining data, you can effortlessly navigate to the group you want to check. Data grouping can also help to identify the number of projects by time period (in this example, week) and Owner. That way you can easily determine owners that are tasked with too many projects, and if necessary, redistribute the projects or change the time period to ensure that all projects are completed. For example, in the following app, John and Mary each have three to four projects, but Matt has only one project. You may want to redistribute the load so that Matt is working on more projects. To make status tracking even easier, use visual cues. Depending on the level of detail, you may want to use two different types of cues. For example: A pie chart to indicate whether a project is Completed (Full), In Progress (Half) or Not Started (Empty). A color bar to indicate whether an owner has Completed a project (Green), is In Progress (Yellow) or has Not Started (Red). With this feature, in the field or in the office, you can easily locate the projects that need attention and decide what actions to take. Automatic Deadline Alerts Keep Projects and Owners on Track The last thing you want to see is a project delay. To keep everything on track and on schedule, why not automatically send a deadline alert to a project owner when his or her deadline is approaching? You can set up your app to do this for you with some simple settings. For example, I can set up a workflow (you can do this under Reports in AppSheet App Editor) to send an email at a scheduled time. In this case, send deadline alert emails at 8am PST to project owners whose deadlines are two days from now. So, for example, if today is December 14, 2017, anyone whose deadline is December 16, 2017 will receive the Deadline Alert email at 8am today. The default email body can show project details and you can customize it to make it more personal. Below is an example of an automatic notification that is triggered based on a schedule deadline.   Another way to do this is to show all projects whose deadlines are two days away on a separate page, and decide if you want to send deadline alerts through pressing a button.      In either case, instead of manually reminding owners about tasks and deadlines, you have set up an automated process that does this for you. I don’t know about you, but this simple feature has made me so much more productive—no more manual tracking of deadlines! Controlled Data Access: Project Owners See Only What they Need to See Whether you’re working on one complicated project or a number of projects, you can control what project owners can access and update. This has two advantages: Uncluttered user interface for project owners as they only see information about the projects they are responsible for. Higher rates of adoption as the app is easy for project owners to use and update as they see only the information they care about. I’ve set up my app to work this way: all project owners can access my app but they can only see the projects that they own. I am the only one that can see all data in the app. For example, on Ryan’s Owner view/page (Left screenshot), he can only see four projects because those are owned by him but I can see all projects (Right screenshot) including Ryan’s.       Download my project management app below, check my expressions and make your own app!   That’s it for today’s post. As you build your project management app, keep these key features in mind. And please let me know: what other management features do you think are critical? What other function-focused articles do you want to read? Leave your comments below—we are always interested in your point of view! For use cases in the real world, please visit our AppSheet Creator Spotlight. For step-by-step app making instructions and new features, please go to Features, Tips & Webinars.

How to Build an App to Manage Your Event

From conferences, open houses and fundraisers to weddings, birthday parties, and holiday get togethers, events take a ton of planning. You may be the event coordinator for your organization or you just throw a killer family gathering, but you still need to stay on budget, keep to a timeline, order decorations, and keep track of so much more. An app maker can help you to create stellar events while minimizing stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Timelines and To-Do Lists Making a timeline is a simple but detailed process. Set the date and work backwards on an excel spreadsheet inputting the tasks that need to be completed. From there you can go step-by-step as to when to meet with the caterer and facilities manager, the drop date for invitations, when materials need to be dropped off and picked up from the printers, etc. This also helps you to create a to-do list for the many parts of this massive machine. The same basic principle works for the day of event timeline; determine when the facility opens, when the event should finish, and fill in the gaps with vendor arrival times, volunteer arrival times, and when the doors open. The event itself should also have a specific timeline including program opening remarks, your video presentation, guest speaker’s address, donor acknowledgements and anything else on the program. This will keep you on target for the duration of the event and will keep things moving to prevent your guests from being bored. “When you decide to have an event, everything matters. From program content and lighting to transportation and parking — everything counts. And your audience will attribute everything to you and…your brand.  Making a list will ensure you don’t overlook things,” recommends marketing coordinator Jamillah Warner. Budget A mobile app can help you to stay on budget as you shop around town to meet with a florist, get quotes on programs, menus or posters, pick out decor, or taste test the caterer’s delectables. A calculator add- on can assist you to stay within your budget if one area goes over and you need to deduct funds from another category. Idea List Between Pinterest, Etsy, and tons of other decorating sites, there is unlimited inspiration available. Keep your favorite ideas all in one place by uploading pictures to your customized app. This can also be helpful for your set-up committee; showing them examples of how tables should be set or how the decorations should be assembled can take more tasks off of your to-do list. Contacts and Committees Lists Many times it takes an army to put on a large event and a contact directory app can be priceless. You can have volunteer lists broken down by job and include contact information including the aforementioned caterers, florists, printers, rental companies, guest speaker, facilities manager, AV company... and you’ll want them all to be on the same page. “Pre-planning is everything, so consider having a meeting with all of your vendors prior to your event so you can hash out every small detail before it’s go-time.  It’s the perfect opportunity to talk over a timeline and get everyone on the same page,” suggests Festivities Catering.  You’ll want these all in one app location the day of the event in case a vendor doesn’t show up on time, if your guest list changes, or for any potential problems that may (and usually do) arise. Email Notifications This app is perfect for large teams where the event planner has to keep track of various members in charge of different jobs at off site locations. With a simple form, you can request updates on whether the job was completed, when it was completed, if there are any questions or comments, time spent, money spent, or any other specific details that the team needs to track. Lead Tracking The primary purpose of most of these types of events is to meet new potential clients or donors, grab their information, and make a great impression. With the right apps already on your phone you can add contact information, personal notes, products or services they want more info on, secure a future meeting date, or process a  donation (for nonprofits) via an order capture feature.  Before you even attend your event, you should have a plan in place on how you want to follow-up with the attendees. This will guide you on capturing the right information and photos to continue the relationship. Randy Hawthorne, publisher and executive director for Nonprofit Hub advises, “Long before your event even comes around, you’ll want to develop a follow-up plan that allows you to connect with every attendee, thanking them for coming and giving them another opportunity for engagement. Your plan could include several components, including follow-up calls, handwritten thank-yous, an email blast, posting event pictures on your social media pages or highlighting an event video on your website. Whatever you do, be sure to stay in touch with the people you just hosted. Leverage the wave of interest and excitement about your organization as much as possible.” Events take an immense investment in time, planning and manpower, but staying organized and creating a detailed strategy with customized apps can help you to plan a successful, memorable, and enjoyable event.

The Best Corporate Apps And Why They Work

With mobile devices now a focal point in business, our professional lives have been invaded by the ever present smart device. The emergence of utility and productivity apps, tools, games and endless types of pursuits, have unleashed a generation of workers who are inclined towards a digital lifestyle. It always helps to learn from the best in the business. Enterprises are capitalizing on the mobile app phenomenon by building innovative apps to communicate with their staff and to enable them to work anytime, anywhere. As more and more businesses use enterprise mobility apps to complement their core business, the use of corporate apps will continue to grow. This means more opportunities for mobile app developers and cross platform mobile development experts to test their ideas, skills, and creativity to find their niche in this thriving marketplace. According to research firm Gartner, by 2017 the demand for such development will increase five times faster than companies and IT departments can keep pace with. With mobile phone sales expected to reach 2.1 billion units in 2019, it will fuel demand for enterprise mobile apps that are just as useful and popular as consumer apps. We look at reasons why. Customized to business needs Corporate apps are customized to an organization’s core business needs and there are several use cases, for example, such as helping its field sales and marketing teams effectively present solutions to customers. They also enable staff on the go to access the latest product brochures or information where document management and distribution platforms make sure that employees have up-to-date information when they need it. There is no need to share multiple versions of files and to look for misplaced documents. Staff can gather information from customers and prospects and enter this data into the corporate or customer relationship management databases efficiently. This saves workers time and ensures that they stay in the loop. Train and develop anywhere, anytime Such apps deliver learning content to their workers on the go. They are interactive, up-to-date and enable workers to sign up for courses online. This way, employees can learn anytime, anywhere and at their own pace. Workers can also keep up to date with company news and industry developments. Employee engagement Employees are already having to pay attention to the emails they get on a daily basis from their co-workers and external customers. A corporate app should not add to this burden. Do keep in mind the following suggestions when building a corporate app: Consider the group of employees you are designing the app for. When creating a product for the public at large, the first step is to consider your audience. The same goes for the corporate app. Talk to your staff and find out about the culture of the department, get their feedback and find out what they actually need. It may sound simple to say but until you actually talk to the people who are actually doing the job day in and day out, creating an app you think may help them, may not actually address their needs. Build engagement with your employees. If your staff find the apps useful and understand that these will help to make their lives easier, they will want to adopt this into their daily work routine. The lives of employees hang on their mobile devices. A good suggestion, at this point, would be to incorporate location services and image capabilities to connect staff and share information more efficiently. Include a variety of media such as interactive, videos and embedded documents. This level of interactivity engages staff, enabling them to be more productive. The best corporate apps work because they enable organizations to engage their employees and to bring productivity increases and faster business processes. The bigger picture is that the organization gains insights (through analytics and such software) into the work habits of its employees, which in the long term, will enable it to fine-tune business processes for greater productivity and rewards. Do your employees work in the field? Give them offline access. Keep apps up-to-date so that the latest information and documents can be distributed to the work force so as to ensure that everyone is working on the same digital page. Nothing is more frustrating than spending time working on outdated documents or data.

Messaging Apps And Chatbots Help Retailers Connect with Customers

As customers increasingly turn to technology to showroom, price compare, and search for the best deals, retailers need to be responsive to these new consumer behaviors. One way that retailers are trying to better connect with their customers is through the increased use of chatbots and messaging apps, according to a new study from [24]7, a provider of chatbot and human agent assistance for retailers. Customers on the hunt for superior service Customers want to connect with their favorite brands, but brands that offer great service experiences are in the minority. A 2015 Customer Care Measurement & Consulting study found that 54 percent of retail customers are dissatisfied while Gartner predicted that companies offering personalization will outperform competitive brands by 15 percent by 2018 revealing the clear cut opportunity costs associated with innovation. Consumers are turning to chatbot technology as it becomes more integrated within their personal lives and evolves to provide better, more efficient and engaging customer service. Scott Horn, CMO of [24]7 stated, “Messaging apps are incredibly valuable for retailers looking to enhance relationships with consumers, particularly millennials.” Preference of chat bots to other traditional customer service outlets The [24]7 study, titled, “A Retailer’s Guide to Chatbots, Live Chat, and Messaging,” found that nearly one-third of consumers (28.9 percent) prefer chat tools over phone (28.7 percent) or email (27 percent) for interacting with retailers (jumping to 37 percent for millennials). Other findings include: 2 out of 5 consumers are open to interacting with a chatbot in a retail scenario 9 percent of millennials prefer to always interact with a robot instead of a human Nearly 40 percent of millennials are open to interacting with a company through a messaging app 1 in 5 consumers are most excited to receive instant order updates via a messaging app, over receiving other retail tech offerings, like immersive virtual experiences and drone delivery The findings demonstrate that retailers need to be flexible enough to meet the needs of their customer segments via the channels they prefer and already use in their everyday lives. Less than a quarter of millennials prefer email (23 percent) or phone (21 percent) as methods to contact retailers. Retailers who adopt channels such as Facebook Messenger is a strong path to this demographic. The growing use of messaging apps by businesses has the potential to further accelerate the trend toward chat as a primary way to communicate with retailers. In the survey, 26 percent of consumers said they're open to interacting with a company through a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp -- and the number jumps to 39 percent for millennials. Convenience (15 percent) and access to conversation history (10 percent) were the top reasons customers cited for using messaging apps, while the top concerns included security and privacy (28 percent) and distrust of third-party apps (12 percent). One in five consumers also said that instant order updates via messaging apps are the best way to improve their online shopping experience, second only to location-based coupons on mobile devices (24 percent). And providing an effortless checkout process is still crucial to driving completed sales, as 13 percent report that they would abandon a shopping cart if they could not find answers to their questions, while 15 percent say that incomplete or inaccurate product information is a serious roadblock. Chatbots can provide a more seamless checkout process and save some transactions that might otherwise be abandoned. Last spring, retail heavyweights Sephora and H&M launched bots on messaging app Kik that help shoppers browse and buy their products, and Taco Bell showed off its TacoBot, a way to use the messaging app Slack to place a meal order. Facebook also announced that it has created a platform that allows companies to develop bots that run within its Messenger app, which has some 900 million users worldwide. Bots are the new apps Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said, “Bots are the new apps.” The case for a bot-centric future goes like this: Smartphone users have proved they are only willing to download and spend time in a limited number of apps. So companies might be better off trying to connect with consumers in the apps where they are already spending plenty of time. And proponents say that a bot can potentially provide greater convenience than apps and Web searches because it can understand natural speech patterns. Because bots are designed for one-to-one conversation, they may ultimately find their most logical home in messaging apps, which are seeing explosive growth in users and are the digital-communication channel of choice for Generation Z. There were 76 million people in the United States using messaging apps such as Kik, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in 2014, according to research firm eMarketer.  That figure shot up to 113 million last year, and is it expected to surge to 177 million by 2019. The study asserted, “Although chatbots cannot resolve transactional hurdles at purchase like price and delivery, they can help customers find desired information, fill out fields based on prior purchases and answer queries. With the right solution, anything more complex can be escalated to a live human agent.” Let AppSheet work with you to develop a relevant app that can incorporate the elements that will best reach your customers today. With AppSheet, retailers can design affordable, easy and attractive mobile apps to improve your customers’ shopping experience. Give it a try today!

Stick to Your Resolution: Boost Productivity With Mobile Apps

As the calendar turns to 2017 and we begin a new year, many of us create a list of New Year’s resolutions to take us forward. This year, one resolution that should be on many managers’ lists is employing mobile apps to help boost worker productivity with renewed vigor. Mobile devices have changed business and communication in transformative ways, and using mobile apps can help boost employee productivity and satisfaction to create better business outcomes. Since more than two-thirds of individuals in the U.S. now carry a smartphone, and as consumers we spend 40 percent of our online time on mobile devices, now is the time to introduce mobile apps to drive more efficient work. Boosting Employee Productivity In a survey conducted by mobile Helix, employers estimated that adopting mobile apps would boost employee productivity by 40 percent, and when one Australian company migrated it core HR systems to mobile apps it saw a 500 percent increase in adoption and a huge increase in employee satisfaction and productivity. With the right productivity apps and services at your fingertips, you can increase your efficiency and get more done. But not all apps are created equal. What features can help boost business productivity? Alerts and notifications. System reminders can engage employees by nudging them to complete important tasks like clocking out, submitting expenses, or filing reports. Data protection and safeguards. Since WMS systems house confidential employee information, the security of mobile apps is crucial to safeguard personal data. Security features can include app time-outs that automatically log out users after a certain period of inactivity; mobile device registration; and limited app functionality in case of device theft or loss. Versatility to adjust to the way employees work. Apps need to reflect how its users work in order to help them be more efficient. Sometimes, one app will not work for employees and managers; be sure to offer the apps that fit the way your employees work. So how do you weed through the 900,000 apps available in the Apple App Store to find the ones that work the best for you? From Workforce Management to Conference Calling or time/task management or List-making or even password keepers, the list of available productivity apps is almost endless. Here are some apps that can help boost worker productivity in significant ways. Our Favorite Productivity Apps Keeper (password management). This app provides impenetrable security for your passwords and digital assets, safeguarding your information from hackers and cyber criminals. Keeper generates strong passwords, autofills passwords across your apps and sites with KeeperFill™ and organizes passwords on all platforms and devices. This handy app keeps all your passwords behind a single master password that wipes your secrets if a hack is attempted. “When our office was broken into eighteen months ago and my desktop was stolen I panicked. Everything I owned was accessible from that note list on it. My mortgages, my shares, my savings accounts; someone could basically have accessed each and every part of my life and my business. I decided something more secure was needed because I’d got too used to the simplicity of having everything in one place. Keeper was the answer to my prayers!” Scott Seaman-Digby, Hawtrey Dene, told LifeHack.   Speek (conference calling).  This app simplifies conference calling, eliminating the need for dial-ins, PINs or downloads.  Conference calling is an important aspect of doing business, enabling teams and individuals working in different locations to connect, brainstorm, plan, or discuss. With Speek, the users pick a personal link that replaces traditional PIN or phone numbers and share it with the other calls. When they want to join the call, they just click that link from their mobile device to join in, with no third parties, hold music or other distractions. “Being able to share information with our team, often when we are out on the road, is a crucial part of our business.  So Speek allows us to do that with minimum fuss,” explained Lorraine Barker, of Workfish.   Shoeboxed (expense claiming). This free app helps make expense claiming a breeze, allowing users to scan and organize receipts and business cards, create expense reports, track mileage and more.  The app not only collects and organizes expenses, but can also generate the reports for submission, allowing users to send them right from the app. This app is great for frequent business travelers or salespeople who must keep track of reams of paperwork and hundreds of business contacts. Andrew Strain, of No.1 Traveller, told Life Hack, “Shoeboxed is an app that businesses of any size should be using. I don’t have to hold onto endless amounts of receipts when I’m away on business anymore or spend time putting an expense report together when I’m back – Shoeboxed does it all for me.” Any.do (collaborative task-management). This collaborative or personal task-management app for iOS, Android and Chrome has a unique facture that reminds you to make a habit of reviewing your daily task list first thing each morning in order to remain prepared for the day’s responsibilities. Never be caught off guard again, promoting productivity and positive results. Asana (collaborative workplace management). Asana was among the first collaborative workplace management tools to help transform how teams get work done together. It helps teams track tasks that need to be completed providing both visibility into work and accountability. It is being utilized by large and small businesses alike to help manage products, wean employees from email, and inspire a new approach to work. Creating Your Own Productivity Apps At the heart of every great productivity app is a solution to a specific problem. Some look toward efficiency, aiming to take an existing product, such as email, and make it easier to use so we waste less time futzing with it. Others seek to silence the noise of the net, bolster collaboration, or unite disparate data. Employers should select mobile apps that engage employees with alerts and notification, safeguard confidential information, and reflect how users work. Usability plus functionality make productivity apps shine. Let AppSheet help you develop your own unique productivity apps to meet your specific employee goals and needs. 

Tips to Creating Amazing Charts on the Go

There are many reasons why you would want to access a chart via your mobile device while you are on the go. Perhaps you visit clients on sales calls and you need to reference how your product compares to the competition. Maybe you work in real estate and you wish to show potential home buyers the ebb and flow of the market and why now is the best time to buy. You may work for a nonprofit and need to show donors how your program is impacting others for good. The possibilities are endless for app makers that utilize mobile charts and graphs; having data interpreted into a visual aid only strengthens your overall presentation. 1. Sort Your Data  Data comes in different forms which creates various levels of impact. An infographic tells a different story than bullet points which tells a different story than a pie chart. Consider your data and the best way to create a visual with information at hand. With graphs, your data should be arranged in a way that shows the largest differentiation between two points. “If you’re showing something sequential, like visits per day over a period of a month or revenue per month over a period of a year, then ordering your data chronologically makes the most sense,” advises Annie Cushing, Senior SEO at SEER Interactive. “In the absence of a dominant sort pattern like that, I’m of the opinion that data should be ordered and presented in descending order to put the most significant data first.”  Look at the below examples. The first one causes your eyes to dart back and forth wasting time and effort as you analyze the data. The lower chart allows you to smoothly glance across the image to create a cleaner comparison. 2. Stay Within Your Branding A cohesive branding strategy involves consistency across the board which includes your content voice, your logo, and especially the components of your product. Moreover, your branding should be evident in every marketing piece. Think about aligning the font and colors from your logo and other promotional materials for use on your charts and graphs that you are sharing. You can easily change the setting on your excel spreadsheet app to make these minor adjustments which will elevate and polish your presentation.  In the following example, you can clearly see that the pie graph echos the colors of the Toys R Us logo. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, but it re-emphasizes the company branding and makes for a cohesive message. 3. Keep the Design Simple Visuals on a laptop, desktop or projection screen obviously have an advantage over the miniature versions that make mobile devices portable. Any charts that are too crowded or that contain words or numbers that are too small will be difficult to use. Consider these additional guidelines from Hubspot’s Ginny Mineo:                                                                    If your bar graph is horizontal, larger values should be at the top. If your bar graph is vertical, order them from left to right. Why? That's how people read English. Remove background lines. No one's looking at your graph to see incremental differences between data points -- they want to see general, overarching trends (plus they clutter up a small screen). Get rid of unnecessary legends or fancy 3D graphics which also make viewing difficult for this medium. To make a line chart stand out, shade the area under the line to make viewing easier. (see below) 65 percent of people are visual learners which means that most customers process information based on what they see. Visuals are even more important for mobile presentations when various outside distractions are vying for client attention and time is usually limited. Ensuring that your charts are clear and your presentation is memorable is a critical step to increasing mobile sales.