It's time to think about using mobile technology (apps) to gather data to move your business forward in 2016. Here's how.
When one thinks of the term, “technology,” many different things come to mind.
Whether it is a favorite app on a smartphone or the newest system implemented to handle the analysis of big data at the new plant opening for an emerging supergiant in the automobile industry, the reality is that “technology” means different things to different people.
That definition can sway with culture, sense of humor, and even time of day. While it could stand on its own, and it does, many times the word, “technology” comes up in combination with other topics.
This is another example of how integrated technology is in the very culture of who we are as people, as a society. In fact, technology is the reason that we are able to do the many things that we can do in business (and in life, as a whole).
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Technology and Operations
Granted, each industry has their own special areas where technology allows them to step ahead, but for “operations” purposes, one could keep it simplistic and still find several examples of technology’s use in the “operations” of a business.
To make the point of how uncomplicated technology could be, in the case of its use in the "operations" of business, one could look at the use of an e-signature (signing a tablet with a scribble stick and transferring it to the contract). As common as this may be (i.e. signing for a package with the UPS delivery), it is a form of technology that makes part of the operations of a business easier and more efficient.
This is only one example, but as more "uses of technology" make that list, one can see how the efficiency and the ratio of success and return on investment (ROI) can increase in any office as well as enhance the operations. Is it the technology that runs the office or something more sophisticated? Moreover, how does the technology assist in the growth of the industry itself?
Already, with the example of the e-signature, technology has inserted itself to a point where it is possible that it is so commonplace that it goes unnoticed and not even identified as “technology.”
It is not uncommon for the business to have a balancing game of all that and technology. Instead of the “early bird getting the worm,” it is a matter of the most technologically savvy getting the client.
This is where there needs to be a realization that at the bare minimum, technology assists in the foundational aspects of “operations.” Beyond that, there are much more areas where technology can assist in efficiency, customer management, research, and even customer satisfaction, to name a few.
The Mobile App and the Importance of Data
Is the technology being used to further the business, increase the ROI, and generate new leads, or have we simply been sucked into a vortex of what would be called the “technology addicted?” That is where it is important to remember the place of good old-fashioned operations and operation strategies and management strategies and technology for the sake of technology.
Fortunately, for business owners, there is the ushering in of the mobile app, and its plethora of data-driven and data-delivering capabilities. While users are enjoying the benefits of what the app may provide for them, they do not realize that they are also providing data to the app provider.
And, data is how the business owner can move his or her business forward, with full knowledge of what the consumer wants and needs and being able to meet those demands and converting them to successes in the business.
An example comes from the insurance world, with apps like those classified as the top five driving apps. The apps prove to be helpful to the users, but at the same time, the apps collect data that is essential to the business world. In this case, the apps help to provide information that helps in understanding how to set their insurance rates by understanding the drivers who are using the apps.
Even four years ago, 2012, the numbers were pretty high at 71 percent of the enterprise level companies getting on board with mobile apps, according to Symantec, as reported by VentureBeat.com.
According to Applause.com, 90 percent of companies out there (what is the definition of “companies?”) will increase their mobile app investment in the year 2016. That may include those companies just starting out in the mobile app development path as well as those companies augmenting existing strategies in the mobile development arena.
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What Does All This Mean to Me?
All this is fine and dandy, but what does it matter to the average business owner. That depends. Is the average business owner ready to intake the data needed to make the right decisions in the business? Is the average business owner ready to understand his or her consumer in a manner that benefits the bottom line? If so, then it does matter. Technology, and specifically, in this case, the use of apps, should matter in obtaining data that is helpful to the business owner.
Now analyzing that data is another subject. If one is up for a discussion on IBM’s SPSS software and the study of inferential statistics, then that may be a great discussion over a cappuccino at the nearest Starbucks. But, for now, it is about getting the data, first. The analysis is what happens after the data is acquired is another discussion. And, one of the easiest methods for obtaining data from real people is the use of the mobile app.
How to Program an App for Your Business
You have several different options when it comes to building your iOS or Android or Windows smartphone app. The first decision that needs to be made (or one of them) is what type of app you want to create, as far as OS.
Possibly, you want to start with one OS and then add to it. So, for example, maybe you start with the Apple iOS version and add the others later. Then again, if you decide to use one of the sites listed below, you may be able to do more than one at one time, right from the start.
- Hire a Programmer – Many times this can be done quite inexpensively by looking for those hungry college students willing to program for less and possibly even get credit at school, for building the app. Keep in mind that this may not be the quickest option, but it would have the likely benefit of a diligent programmer (who has access to the “pros” and professors) and a reasonable cost.
- Do it Yourself, Step-by-Step – If you don’t mind the sweat (and tears), maybe you want to learn how to do it yourself and actually program your own app. Fortunately, with the internet, it is easy to find a plethora of articles and sites (like CodeWithChris) that show the how-to process. In fact, there is an excellent article on the 12-step method to building an app and it includes the necessary planning levels that we all learn as programmers in our first year of college. In this case, it is an easy-to-read article available for free.
- Consider a web-based rapid application development option. These vary, from purchasing hours of consulting to having an app that is based on a website for which you pay. There are other options, as well, but the advantage is that it takes the brain work out of your hands and lets you do the fun stuff and pay the money. Some of those options include:
- appery.io – starts at $30/mo for one app.
- MobileRoadie - $149/mo for iPhone and Android apps and analytics.
- ShoutEm - $19.90/mo for an HTML5 app.
- AppMakr – Free option for an HTML5 app.
- BiznessApps – “Powerful Custom Web Apps” starting at $29/mo.
- AppMachine – “Start building for free” and then $49 for one app/mo.
- AppyPie – starts at $15/mo for HTML5 and Android app.
- GoodBarber - $20 for a month-to-month plan.
- iBuildApp – currently 50% off at 19.50/mo.
- TheAppBuilder – when you are ready for something more enterprise like this onboarding app idea.
Keep in mind that your objective is to find a solution that will help you to gain data that you need for your business. That needs to permeate your thought process as you consider the above options and site offerings.
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At the End of the Day, Take in Some Sunshine
All this talk about technology can cause a person to feel as if their head is spinning, especially if the topic of technology mystifies or bores them. That is why it is helpful to have some of the sites, above, to do the heavy lifting in mobile development so that you don’t have to do it.
But, when the technology boredom sets in and the sun is thinking of setting for the evening that may be the perfect time to go outside and breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine. Just because technology benefits your business doesn't mean it has to dominate your life.