The Mobile Savior of Small Business

Among the radical changes in the recent world is the impact of mobile devices on modern society.  Quickly becoming the first screen of information for everyone, mobile apps are even being used by the electronically resistant senior population who has found convenient use of large-print apps and the ability to maintain closer contact with grandchildren.  We have seen such a great shift in the past five years so that even the shortest elevator ride has people pulling out their phones to manage their lives.  This poses opportunity, as well as, challenges for businesses trying to stay ahead of the pack.

Big business has been the first mover with custom mobile apps that segment services to their simplest form.  With a few clicks on an iPhone, anyone can re-order medication, purchase movie tickets, or find their way using GPS technology.  To the small businessman, mobile apps are still something to put-off developing because it adds to the development budget, and they resort to mobile friendly sites that only require one build.  This means developing web apps with a width of less than 960 px and reducing the number of pages that display on mobile devices.  A true mobile app requires additional development dollars, but is native to the mobile device, even using geo location sensors and maps.

There are also more challenges involved with mobile apps because, just as web applications must function in multiple browsers, mobile apps must also function in multiple mobile frameworks (iPhone, Android, etc.), adding to the burden and cost of development.  For all the trouble, most small businesses throw in the towel applying their efforts in things they understand.

A new friend has come into the development community, and it has the potential to narrow the gulf between small and large business.  PhoneGap is a free and open source framework that allows you to create mobile apps using standardized web APIs for the platforms you are most likely already using.  That means, without needing to write code in a new language, developers can continue in their native environments, like HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.  PhoneGap will then recompile the code, turning your web app into a mobile app that runs on IOS, IPhone, IPAD, Android, Blackberry, Windows 7, Web.O.S, and Simbian.

Adobe saw the potential and invested heavily in PhoneGap as part of their plan to compensate for FLASH Players fading relevance.  They have put this service into a pretty package and are adding services such as compiling your code in the cloud, which ultimately improves consistency and offers convenience to the developer. They sell it simply:

Build great apps powered by open web standards. Cut down on development time by re-using your existing web dev skills, frameworks and tools. Get all the benefits of cross-platform development while building apps just the way you like.

Developers should be paying attention because they can use their existing development team without the need to find or create mobile specialists.  It also allows the ability to incorporate sensors, like geo location and cameras, which are native to the mobile environment.

Small business will love this because it simplifies their development strategy and gives them wider access to their customers.  It makes mobile development affordable for everyone and could very well equalize the playing field between big and small business.   For this reason, we are paying close attention to PhoneGap and hope to add it to our list of services very soon.

Zombie Apocalypse – Preparing Your Business

Sunset arrives and your afternoon nap went a little long. Suddenly you launch yourself from the couch and hurriedly begin closing your shutters using the new bolts you located on Amazon, which also introduced its latest product; Zombie Preparedness Kits; complete with HK1 hydrokinetic adjustable wrench that you never knew you needed until now.  With local distribution centers, you need not wait 43-days, the new UPS-Ground delivery time from the West Coast.  It avoids most cemeteries where the undead are mostly concentrated.

Your shoe closet is worthless. The boxes are great for your kids new hobby of collecting and burying reanimated human digits that squirm on the ground; one of the creepiest normalities of this new world.  Prada’s sales have plummeted, while Zappos more practical Kevlar boots and thick leather mid-calf selections are flying off the virtual shelf.   Everything has changed.  Graphic novelists now became useful, hired as consultants because who else knows more about reanimated human life forms?  This is was one of the millions of ways uninfected men and women needed to reinvent themselves.

The document was prophetic, as was the reportedly fictional work published by the Weather Channel.  They were ready.  Those who didn’t adapt digitally were eaten alive. Literally.  Fortifications needed to be strengthen, food needed to be hoarded, and e-business became competitive to the extreme.  Why?  Clothing racks are great hidy-holes for mindless “Walkers” eager to eat your brains.

Smart businesses prepared early, using SEO strategies with key words like Brain Delicacies, Undead, cross bow, and throwing axes.  Knowing how to play ball, they saw the trends before-hand and coded their sites appropriately.  Security features didn’t just deal with PCI compliance, but maintained new rules on delivery men, including those who rode shotgun. Old school sites were still optimized for Gangnam Style queries; laughably useless in days like this.

Analytics and trend analysis has now saved many lives, feeding families with profits earned by businesses ahead of the horde.  But even if there were not zombies, they would have been ready.  Still – it’s not too late for you.

If you are thinking about how growing trends could impact your market then you have made your first step in staying ahead of the horde.  Zombies or no, the tide is moving and you need to get on board.


What do CFO’s Want?

CFO’s and business owners want feedback from their programmers, which is tough when often times the better programmers have spent their lives incubating skills that borrow from their ability to return phone calls.  And costs for a web site are all over the place; from several hundred dollars for a simple revision to a hundreds of thousands of dollars for a site with vast databases, and volumes of functionality. So – when a project depends on a high level of accountability and communication, and all of them do, clients just want to know what is really happening behind the veil of code.

All consultants’ fees are based on a daily billing rate, which reflects the value they place on one day’s labor plus expected overhead expenses. These rates appear in fixed fees, monthly retainers, hourly billing or even by measuring a company’s performance.  Either way, those fees must be justified with the quality of their work combined with effective communication and reporting.

The savior of the coding hero is to maintain good internal systems and to enjoy the ability to recognize weakness and to compensate for it by surrounding one’s self with colleagues of varying skills and personalities.  This wisdom steers a client away from hiring one-man shops where “man-down” doesn’t mean the death of a project.  Consistency comes when redundancies are as present as the front-line programmer.

At Whiteboard, we make a habit of communicating internally through continual education, participation in the open source community and a diligent internal peer review process.  In doing so we encourage our staff to pay attention to the details.  It also keeps us talking, keeping all parties informed.  Upon request, our clients receive online access to reports that monitor the progress of each project, including time sheets.

We have cleaned up many messes created by one-man shops or companies who care little for the details.  And while we are grateful for the opportunity to do so, we feel your pain and look forward to providing relief.