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Small Business Apps: An App that Bridges the Gap Between Potential and Performance

“Something was missing.” That’s how elan Bailey, Founder and Managing Director of Thrive Learning and Development, describes the first step of her journey with AppSheet. 18 months ago, elan was set to graduate with a master’s degree in Leadership and Organization Development and launch a consulting business. With ten years experience as a coach and facilitator, she knew first hand what got in the way of people operating at their best, and she wanted to help more people and businesses reach the pinnacle of their performance and potential in the workplace. In her words, “help people thrive… not just survive."                                                                                                                            Courtesy of elan Bailey Her vision was to create an app to bridge the gap between potential and performance. An app that clients could use to track their goals and commitments, discover emerging growth opportunities and share their learning insights with their coach. But without a coding background, hiring a developer to help would have cost thousands of dollars. That’s when she discovered AppSheet. elan created a journaling app for her clients to manage their own learning and growth using the rich experiences they face in their work everyday. They can record their stretch goals and commitments, track their experiences and results in real time, and share the updates with their coach directly from the app. She says, “it helps information in a live coaching call because the client has been sending me brief updates all throughout the week.” When she gets on a call she has much of the context she needs and can use that time to focus on the areas where the client is getting stuck or experiencing a breakthrough. She built the app by herself… with occasional technical support from the AppSheet team. “It took me two weeks from the time I found AppSheet, to take what was an idea in my head, and then on a napkin, to actually build the first prototype.” 18 months later, she’s now using the “Thrive” app to help run her business. elan notes that typically companies will roll out a personal or leadership development program only for the employees they consider to be “high potential.” The high costs and time requirements associated with hiring professional coaches can make it prohibitive to invest in the development of all employees. Often the employees who could benefit the most from having coaching support are left out of the budget. The Thrive app provides a cost-effective and sustainable way to bridge the gap between potential and performance. “This really is about everyone being able to take responsibility for their own learning and growth by actually being able to track it for themselves,” says elan. “Businesses who use the app can now challenge and support every employee to lead their own development… without breaking the bank.” elan thinks her partnership with AppSheet has made a world of difference. “I built the app entirely on my own with the help of the AppSheet community and that would not have been possible any other way. I would be sitting here 18 months later with nothing but a concept in my head.” Other small businesses are poised to see similar success with AppSheet. Being able to create an app without hiring an outside developer or keeping one on staff can be a major boost for a company just starting out… and can help more people like elan follow their passions… and thrive.  

Small Business Apps: Singapore Company Saves 60% in Software Expenses with AppSheet

Kunal Chakraborty speaks at AppSheet's Singapore User Group Event in September. Kunal Chakraborty is a busy man. He has a home in India. But he worked in Singapore for a decade. During that time he found it difficult to keep up his residence. So he decided to launch a company to help people like him who want or need to have carpentry, construction, painting, or plumbing done in their absence. That home services company is called ClickJugaad Services. And ClickJugaad Services uses AppSheet-powered apps for project management, payment management, and human resource management. Kunal says AppSheet technology has saved him time and money. That’s important considering he still has his day job, as a developer for a leading financial firm, in addition to running his startup. Located in India’s UP state, three-year-old startup ClickJugaad has 15 employees and works with 500 contractors. So he needed software to help him track cashflow and worker hours, to do invoicing and payroll, and to manage projects. “For all these different aspects I actually bought different softwares, which were meant for different business functions,” says Chakraborty. “And soon I realized, after one year, that these different SaaS software [packages] are not helping me out because data is getting duplicated across the software for different business requirements. Nothing is consolidated, and there are a lot of gaps. So I started looking for something to build on my own.” Because Kunal had a full-time job in addition to ClickJugaad Services, he wanted to build apps without coding to save time and effort. That led him to review, and ultimately adopt, AppSheet. “I tried a lot of different platforms actually,” says Kunal. “So it was trial-and-error. I tried [different solutions] for two weeks…. And I found AppSheet was the right fit for developing a cross platform App for managing all my business requirements with minimal efforts.” AppSheet was the winner, he says, because it gave him the flexibility to design apps based on his company’s specific needs. “I am a developer myself,” he adds. “So I knew what I wanted. I know what the requirements are for my startup.” Kunal started with a small human resources app for searching technicians. Then he added project management and finance-related features to that app. But the app got so big that Kunal decided to split it into three separate apps: a project management app; a payment management app; and a human resources app. Since then he’s also built a ticketing system app and a data analytics app, which acts as a dashboard that allows Board of Directors of the company to review activity and trends of the other apps. The project management app allows ClickJugaad’s 15 staff members to view a spreadsheet with the names, contact information, and areas of expertise of each of the company’s contractors. Staff members can use the app to assign jobs to the individual contractors. And the app uses an SMS to inform the contractors when jobs are available and what they entail. The payment management app helps ClickJugaad issue and track customer payments, and keep track of technician payments. Team members also use this app to request approval for money to buy materials like brushes, construction materials, or paint, and to expense travel costs. Any cash transaction enforces signature by the recipient in the App. The human resources app provides a roster of the projects that each person is working on during the day. This app also has a GPS feature that allows ClickJugaad to see the physical location of workers. Kunal says these AppSheet-powered apps have enabled his company to save 60 percent in software expenses. And he estimates the apps make his startup three times more efficient. And building the apps was easy, he adds. He just read the AppSheet documentation and did a Google search to get answers when he had a question. For others considering adopting the AppSheet platform, Kunal offers this piece of advice: “Build small, think about your requirements clearly, and use the features that AppSheet provides to fulfill the requirements. “Given the flexibility that AppSheet has, there’s going to be more than sufficient opportunities to [attend to] all the requirements that a small business or company has,” he adds. “Start small and slowly grow big. Develop small, but plan big.”  

Startups: Use Apps to Leverage Digital Transformation

Right now “digital transformation” is one of the hottest buzzwords in business. Simply put, digital transformation refers to the process of shifting from a traditional business model to one that is purely digital. This trend is occurring among businesses of all sizes, and across all vertical markets. Now, you may be scratching your head and wondering how it’s possible for a startup to embrace digital transformation. After all, startups are brand new. There is nothing to transform from. It’s possible when you think of digital transformation as more of an ongoing, multipronged strategy — and a mindset — rather than a single plan that you can execute and complete. Digital transformation never ceases, because digital innovation is always happening. As such, digital transformation is all about making decisions that allow your business to operate with greater flexibility and responsiveness. With this in mind, your startup is in a great position to leverage digital transformation as you are already ahead of the game. You don’t have to abandon any legacy technologies, or do any backtracking. It’s just a matter of making sure that the decisions you make moving forward are based on a strategy based on data, real-time communication, collaboration and the cloud. As we explain in a new white paper, one of the most important things that businesses can do to leverage digital transformation is to create apps. Using an app maker platform like AppSheet, you can create stunning and highly-reliable apps in no time at all using the data that you already have in your spreadsheets. These apps can be used to streamline internal processes, and to interface directly with customers on their smartphones and tablets. The best part is that you don’t even need to know how to code. So, how can you get started? Check out SolworxS take in this sponsored white paper. In it, you will find a rundown of everything you need to know about embracing digital transformation—including different things you can do with apps, important dos and don’ts, and more.

Manage Your Freelance Business with an App Maker

It is common knowledge that telecommuting is on the rise. Cloud platforms have eliminated the need for brick and mortar offices and the high overhead costs that go along with traditional business practices. However, freelancers are also taking advantage of new technology and the amazing opportunities that are rising in this innovative era of commerce. As of 2014, a study found that more than 53 million Americans are doing freelance work and account for more than 34% of the entire workforce. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average employer cost is $29.71 per employee per hour, with roughly 70% of that accounting for wage and 30% for employee benefits. Freelancers eliminate that extra 30% expense and therefore are becoming more attractive to employers. However, there are a few downsides to this freedom of enterprise. You have to be your own marketing team, project manager, accountant, and a specialist at job hunting. Fortunately, a spreadsheet app can help with maintaining impeccable organization. Here’s how: Client Management At any given time a freelancer can have a variety of clients. Each client has his or her own contact information, guidelines, pay scale, and timeline. Not only that, but there are the timesheets to maintain, invoices to send out, and tracking to see who has paid and who has an outstanding bill. It can easily be overwhelming to work on a project AND maintain the bookkeeping that comes with it. With a spreadsheet app, a freelancer can keep a mobile running time clock whenever he or she conducts onsite meetings, has a teleconference, or even just works from a local coffee shop. This aids in staying on or under budget and helps to track each individual client without the hassle opening a separate spreadsheet for each one. Project Organization App creators can help you to create a task checklist and running expense sheet. For example, let’s say you are an interior designer. You can create a spreadsheet listing each room that you are decorating and the items that are needed to complete it. As you shop, you have a mobile checklist along with a running expense list so you can get exactly what you need while staying aware of your expenditures. Furthermore, you can add pictures of tiles, floor samples, and paint chips so that everything coordinates. Contact Tracking Finally, a freelancer’s life can be terribly unstable. One month you can have more work than you can handle and the next you are combing through job sites pitching for projects. With a mobile app, you can create a contact list with past, present and potential clients along with extensive notes tracking your communication with them. When work becomes sparse you can reconnect with these individuals and make notes so you don’t accidentally pester the same client two weeks in a row. Moreover, if you get a call or e-mail from a contact while you are on the go, you can immediately log in the information so you won’t forget to later. A freelancer may be extremely talented, but their business will only be as successful as their organizational skills allow them to be. Miss a project deadline, forget to send out invoices, or going over budget will greatly hurt your credibility and reputation. A mobile app can provide you with the right tools so that you can keep your focus and successfully complete each project.

How Can AppSheet Help My Small Business?

  Small business owners have some of the biggest challenges that anyone can face professionally; not only do they have to perfect their products or services, but they are also required to be experts in a variety of areas including marketing, branding, web and app design, employee management, and accounting. If you are an entrepreneur, maybe you’ve resigned yourself to living on three hours of sleep per night or spending every moment of spare time combing through the Internet for best practice tips. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, self-serve mobile apps can help you stay organized and informed to help you build a foundation for success. Since there are so many pieces of the puzzle that comprise your business, let’s focus on each topic separately. Employee Management Regardless if you have one employee or a hundred, your company is only as good as the people that represent you and your product. Instead of shuffling through timesheets and texting mobile employees to find out where they are, consider creating a customized timesheet app. You can have your employees log on, synchronize with management so you’ll know who is on the job, and the app can automatically calculate wages to prevent costly overtime.  Additionally, you can create a sales app to monitor who your top salesperson is. Good help is hard to find, so tracking and rewarding top employees is a profitable investment. In fact, Blackhawk Engagement Solutions sites that, “a mere 5% increase in employee retention can result in a 25-85% boost in profits.” Knowing how your sales team is performing and acknowledging your top employees is critical information towards reliability, profitability, and loyalty to your company.  Inventory Management In 2014, “33% of all orders came from a mobile device rather than a computer,” reported Shopify. “This is up from 23% the year prior, and just 12% when we started tracking this back in 2012. That means that in only 2 years, mobile’s contribution to total sales has skyrocketed by 175%.”  If you have an eCommerce store, you know the importance of literally taking your store wherever you go and managing your company from a mobile device. Your storefront app can include pictures of product, display price lists, add descriptions, and take orders. From boutiques to fairs to conventions, you can be prepared to show and sell your inventory at any time. Retail stores are becoming increasingly more tech savvy and so are their employees. Brick and mortar stores are incorporating mobile devices to promote customer service as salespeople are using smartphones to help in-store customers find products not on shelves through mobile POS systems. Employees can inquire if the size medium blue t-shirt is in the storeroom or located at a different location and they can look up sizes or style numbers of previous purchases for an alternative option.  Modern commerce also demands more than just the days of counting stock in the back room; with an inventory app you can be on alert to when it’s time to order more of a specific product, analyze sales trends, and even attach pictures to help employees identify the correct product. Marketing, PR and Sales Marketing is expensive and knowing what works and what doesn’t is a priceless formula. Track your A/B testing, promotional offers, advertising outlets, and other marketing strategies using a sales report app to find out where you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Secondly, let’s say you meet a sales lead at a community meet and greet event. Three days later you have time to call that potential client but you lost that important business card and you can’t remember if her last name was Thompson or Thomason. A lead tracking app can help you to monitor clients and potential clients, not only with a simple contact list, but you can include vital information like company affiliation, potential investment outcomes, special interests, previous agency hired, or anything else that will make you stand out when you do have time to make that follow up call. English scientist Michael Faraday once said, “The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success are concentration, discrimination, organization, innovation and communication.”   Concentrating on the task at hand and discriminating the good from the better business path is up to you. However, organization, innovation, and communication can certainly be achieved when you incorporate the right apps into the daily management of your company.

Should You Buy It Or Build It? 5 Considerations for When Your Business Needs a Mobile App

So you’ve decided your company needs a mobile app. Congratulations! Eventually, the outcome of said decision should help streamline communications, keep data organized, and solve some of your most pressing business challenges. But before you reach that goal, you’ll need to make a few more choices about how to achieve the mobile app your organization needs. Luckily, you’ve got a multitude of options at your fingertips. Not too long ago, access to mobile app development was limited to those with large budgets, experienced IT teams, and time to spare. The recent rise in popularity of DIY app builders has created a boom in technological self-sufficiency, and more than ever corporations are looking to develop their own mobile tools with the least investment possible and the ability to iterate on demand. And these DIY platforms make it easy for everyone in the company to build and improve upon custom mobile apps-- removing reliance on IT teams. Whether you work for a large corporation or run a small business of your own, it’s worthwhile to consider both the “buy it” (developing native apps in-house or contracting development to third parties) or “build it” (utilizing DIY app development platforms) options based on a number of considerations about the solution you need. How much time can you afford to wait for the app? What are the budget limitations? Will the app need to adapt to changing business processes? So, should you buy it or build it? Below we have outlined a few considerations we hope will guide you to the app development route that’s best for your company. Budget Budget (or lack thereof) is likely the most important factor for organizations when it comes to developing a mobile app. According to a service that helps businesses find software-- the average cost of a traditionally developed mobile app is anywhere from $40,000 to $171,000. Simple apps will obviously start on the lower end of the price spectrum-- but most businesses need apps that can perform complex functions and that keep data secure. Those necessities will drive up the development costs considerably. Before decisions about features can be made, it’s necessary to have a discussion about available funds. If the budget for the app is any less than $30,000-$40,000: build it. Platforms like AppyPie, Como, and AppSheet provide comprehensive DIY development options that can be leveraged with minimal cost and time investment.   Security Next you’ll want to consider the kind of data protection your app and its users will require. Don’t just impulsively decide that all data will need to be kept completely secure;  the more security you require, the higher the cost of development will be. Some types of data can remain secure without the necessity for complex and expensive measures. For example, if you’re creating an educational app designed to keep track of student information, you likely do not want others getting a hold of the student data. This doesn’t mean you need to pay thousands of dollars for a highly secure or encrypted native app. Many DIY app builders offer quite robust security options. In fact, here at AppSheet we use the industry-standard OAuth protocol to secure access to your cloud file system in order to build apps. So if you need an app and you feel secure keeping your data hosted on a cloud platform, you’re probably a great candidate to build it. On the other hand, if you’re creating apps for hospitals and need to be HIPAA compliant, or for other organizations who rely on stringent and/or legal security protocols to keep data safe, you’ll want to take the safe route and buy it. Timing How desperately do you need access to mobile tools? Are you wasting valuable time and resources recording data by hand and later transcribing it? Or, perhaps you need a mobile app for an upcoming event a few months down the line. Each situation carries different implications. We did a bit of research on the average development time of a traditional native iOS or Android app, and we found the answer to be around 18 weeks, depending on the features the app calls for. Here’s a nifty infographic, courtesy of the folks over at Kinvey:   © Kinvey, 2013 With this in mind, how long can you wait? If you need the app sooner than later, try your hand on one of the many DIY, code-free app platforms out there to build it yourself. These products allow for rapid and affordable prototyping, and remove trepidation associated with investing in an expensive solution that may or may not ultimately be sufficient. If you’re planning ahead for an event or simply have some time before you’ll need the app, you might be able to afford the wait time required to buy it.  Classes of apps If you’re looking for the next Angry Birds, you’ve pretty much only got one option: buy it. Interactive games, chatting apps, and apps with certain types of third party integrations are extremely complex and cannot be accomplished without thorough coding knowledge and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Though, if you’re able to settle with a simpler game concept and design, you might find some suitable templates on DIY platforms like AppsMoment. Similarly, social networking and image and video editing apps are also very difficult to build without a coding team to create the assets and the budget to cover the necessary resources. For this class of apps, you’re definitely going to want to buy it. If your app doesn’t require any of the functionality above, you might be a good candidate to build it yourself. Fortunately, many DIY app builders offer powerful platforms with intricate feature offerings. Programs like Yapp focus on code-free apps for events and conferences, while AppSheet apps allow you to create apps for eCommerce, field service, and almost anything in between-- all while keeping your data synced to the backend. Adaptability of apps Even if you’ve got the budget to spend on developing (or outsourcing development of) a native app, once you have the app, you may be very limited in terms of updating or improving its features alongside any corresponding business developments. If your app’s requirements are fairly static-- and you have the budget for traditional development-- buying it might be the best route. However, if in fact you do anticipate needing to iterate upon your app-- or even requiring multiple apps-- as your requirements change, building it yourself provides that ability. DIY platforms allow for rapid modifications with the added capability to create as many apps as necessary to accomplish an organization’s varied goals. -------------------- Whether your mobile needs are simple or complex, affordable or expensive, time-sensitive or not, it’s worth exploring all mobile app development options available. Why spend upwards of $100k if you can do it yourself? And if your needs are too complex for DIY, perhaps a DIY prototype might help reduce future development costs. However, if you have rather specific security requirements, or need an app with social networking capabilities, it's likely best to outsource development.  Whatever is right for you, being informed about all possible solutions will help you to make the best decisions for your company's mobile strategy.

4 Small Business Challenges and DIY Tools to Resolve Them

  Business today moves faster than it ever has before. Smartphones make it possible to accomplish important tasks from almost anywhere. It's safe to say that mobile apps are also here to stay—but what if your small business can't afford all that comes with developing a traditional mobile app? Luckily, you don't have to wait until you're a large corporation to get access to powerful mobile apps you can customize to your needs. Platforms like AppSheet empower resource-strapped organizations to build their own mobile apps that can help them solve their everyday business challenges. Whether you're managing a budget or keeping track of important contacts, you can build a mobile app to help alleviate some pain points you encounter every day. We've compiled a list of challenges that could be solved with mobile tools you can create on your own. 1. Capturing Orders For a small business owner who is selling goods online, giving customers mobile access to storefronts is paramount to success. We live in an age where people are buying groceries while waiting for the bus, or picking out window coverings in between appointments. If you're not offering a mobile purchasing option, you're likely losing out on business. The good thing is, you don't have to be Amazon to create a great mobile app customers can use to browse and buy your products. Check out our E-commerce Store sample app, which displays beautiful product images and connects potential buyers straight to the app creator's Etsy store. 2. Managing Inventory When you run your own store, there's a lot to manage and oversee—not least of which is all of the inventory maintained in the shop. It can be one of the most labor-intensive and frustrating parts of the job, especially considering it's usually managed with spreadsheets, which aren't particularly portable, nor intuitive and easy to interact with on a mobile device. Creating custom mobile apps from your spreadsheet data gives you the flexibility to manage your inventory from anywhere in the store. Our Store Inventory app allows you to do all of this and more, including display product images and group items by unique categories. 3. Tracking Data in the Field Mobile tools are imperative for businesses that offer any type of service in the field, such as repairs or deliveries. Service technicians need to keep track of and capture all kinds of information while on the job, including client and job data, images, contact information, and more. Moreover, this data needs to somehow find its way back to an office-based database. Custom mobile apps built with AppSheet allow field service workers to record important information that immediately syncs to a backend spreadsheet. With these apps, office employees can track service jobs in real time. Best of all, there is no need for manual transcription, which is cumbersome and can lead to human error. Check out our Service Log sample app to see how such a tool might work for your business. 4. Time Tracking Freelancers and consultants typically manage their own invoices and payments. When visiting clients they could always record meeting times with simple pen and paper, but this method is bulky and cumbersome. A misplaced sheet of paper could mean a forfeited paycheck. And these days, pen and paper methods probably don't instill much confidence in the client. Custom mobile tools can help independent contractors manage their time, track contacts, maintain leads, and more. Our Consultant, Contact Directory, and Lead Tracking sample apps can help time-challenged freelance employees manage their processes and reduce administration efforts. AppSheet offers several innovative solutions for small businesses. Check out our Sample App Gallery and get started today.

Trick or Treat! Who's Behind That Mask?

It's Halloween! I just saw this amazing infographic that says Americans spend $2.8B on Halloween costumes, more than 10% of that on pet costumes. A fun holiday, great for the kids, candy makers, and the dentists. Personally, I really enjoy seeing kids from our neighborhood come by, ring the doorbell and spook us out. I happen to now run a small business -- AppSheet -- and our product also happens to serve other small businesses. So as I'm stocking up on candy for the trick-or-treaters, it's got me thinking --- who rings the "doorbell" of our business? What costumes do they wear? What trick or treat are they demanding? How can I see through their masks? As CEO of AppSheet, I am bombarded daily with email offering us everything from office space, healthy snacks (organic beef jerky, no less!), sales automation, marketing automation, design services, and of course, most lucrative of all, software development services. They ring the doorbell (typically via email, though increasingly and irritatingly by calling my cellphone). They wear different guises, but they all want to scare me -- "hey, you really need me to do X for you" -- and are looking for a treat. In the case of app development services, it is a darn expensive treat! $50K to build me a mobile app. Please! On behalf of every small business owner, I suggest maybe it's time to show them a trick or two instead. Just do-it-yourself (DIY!). There are new online services that make it easy for anyone to build themselves a useful mobile app. We offer one such service at AppSheet where you can build mobile apps directly from spreadsheets in minutes. And this is a growing trend for many other digital services as well. They're getting easier, simpler and more accessible for the everyday user. Of course, we think ours is the coolest thing since sliced bread, but the important thing is -- explore the options, pick a good one, and get going. So the next time the doorbell rings, you will be the one scaring them with your DIY mobile app expertise. Save your money, or use it to buy your pet a costume instead. Halloween in numbers main pic Photograph: Guardian Graphics