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4 Strategies for Mobile Success

With mobile competition and customer expectations skyrocketing, it’s time for your business to be mobile-relevant—or become mobile-extinct. From analytics to optimization and personalization, you can be mobile-minded and ready to deliver well thought out mobile experiences that provide value, in context, at the time of need. Here are four strategies for re-imagining your business with mobile and keeping your most valuable customers and employees satisfied.

Mobile is more than a channel

Mobile development isn’t just about creating the same user experience for smaller screen sizes. Given that some consumers will continue to shop at brick-and-mortar stores while others would be perfectly happy with a mobile-only institution, it’s important that your mobile strategy complements the entire customer journey map. You have to think of mobile as a way to improve customer experience overall, and your company is more likely to improve overall conversion.

Mobile experiences must be easy to use

With limited screen space and the occasional interruptions consumers experience while engaging in their mobile devices, marketers need to cut to the chase and make content easily accessible. Streamline the workflow with smart defaults and data loaded integration. Engage users with emerging technologies that eliminate the need for customers to search back and forth, such as  “shoppable media” that quickly give mobile users the content they want in one click.

Metrics, metrics, metrics

To measure mobile success, you must manage it first. This is as important for big corporations as it is for startups. When developing and managing apps, mobile teams must understand how many consumers download and how often they launch their app, what paths they take, what social interactions are getting traction and if their interactions drive monetization. To get the most out of your mobile apps, you must use metrics for user acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention to help you measure ROI.

Target and personalize by audience segment

Your brand is the common denominator between your customers—beyond that, each customer is uniquely different and expects a unique experience based on their level of engagement and interests. To find out what they like, consider using A/B testing and optimization. To keep them engaged, consider using location-based targeting and social network integration to create relevant, personalized experiences wherever they are.

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Non-profit Organization’s Use of Technology

Who’s heart-strings aren’t pulled by the not-for-profit organizations in our world?  Well, our’s sure are, and as such, we’ve taken a vested interest in helping non-profits figure out which technologies they would benefit from spending their precious funds on, and which ones don’t bring enough value to warrant the expenditure.

Two such organizations that we’ve been working with are the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, and a local K-8 school in our neighborhood.  In both cases the primary goal is to raise funds, but only slightly secondary to that goal is to provide a valuable experience to their audiences.  Our approach was different in each case, but the point for both was to work out a plan that would meet their goals and a timeline that worked with their budgets.

mobile app developmentApproach A: Build it in phases

Figure out what the “pie in the sky” dream (or epic) is, and then prioritize those goals into manageable chunks that can be accomplished over time (this is also known as Agile Programming). This way you get a “MVP” (minimum viable product) in the hand of the users more quickly so you can start getting their feedback. This is good when you are introducing something new to an audience that is used to you offering something else. They will point out what they miss about the previous offering, and what they like about the new one before you spend too much time and money developing what you thought they wanted. In the subsequent versions, you release more and more new features and possible remove things that aren’t as desirable as you thought they would be.

Check out the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation mobile app for their Courage Classic bike tour (iOS & Android), and see what phasing in features can look like.  Other non-profits can learn quite a bit from this app and what all it offers the people they serve.

St. John's Men Who Cook mobile app

Approach B: Working prototype before development

Again, you definitely need to know what you want in the long run, but in this case, you build prototypes that include all or some of the features you want and test them on your audience before you build it (“it” being a mobile app, enterprise app, web app…).  In this case, we went a little beyond a working prototype and used a mobile app development tool called Como.  There are quite a few pre-built modules that you can customize to a certain extent – things like catalogs, loyalty cards, events, and Facebook feeds.  It’s not a perfect tool, and you’re at the mercy of their design, but it worked in this case to show the client what was possible and to be able get feedback from their audience before they invested a great deal of time and money into it.  The other benefit was speed to market.  This app is for a non-profit fundraising event coming up in a month, so we needed to get something out there well in advance so their audience could use it.  You can find the St. John’s Men Who Cook mobile app in Google Play to see what a working prototype can do.

So now we’ve told you about two possible approaches to building a custom software application.  In these cases they worked well for the clients, but they aren’t right for ever project.  We are always happy to talk with potential clients about their projects and work with them on the strategy that fits their situation.

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parse alternatives

Migration from Parse Options

Why would you need a Parse alternative?

You wanted to quickly ramp up a new mobile app, so you chose Parse to get it done. Excellent! It’s one of the oldest Mobile Backend as a Services (MBaaS) available. It’s mature. And it has a ton of great features.

The biggest “con” is that if it ever shuts down, you will have to quickly figure out the migration from Parse options.

Unfortunately, that day has happened. Parse just announced they’re winding down the Parse service, and Parse will be fully retired after a year-long period ending on January 28, 2017. That’s it! You have one year to get your stuff and move on. They claim they, “are proud that they’ve been able to help so many of you build great mobile apps”. But not so proud that they will continue the service.

This is a huge transition! Your whole backend has to be migrated to new servers and possibly new software. Maybe you’re thinking about moving to a new BaaS. Parse was not the first to shutdown, nor will it be the last. So, I understand it if you’re a little skittish about using another BaaS at the moment.

Luckily, On3 professional services has already moved a few clients off of cloud service systems like this to their own hosted environments. Most of which ended up being cheaper to maintain. We have also provided staffing of our resources on larger projects through Digital Enablement service.

We’ve got the experience, process and resources that will make move from Parse as easy as possible.

What are some of your options?

First, Parse is releasing a database migration tool that lets you migrate data from your Parse app to any MongoDB database. Once in Mongo, you need to build a whole new services layer on a new set of software and servers that has to be maintained. This is no small task and has lots of moving parts. But it will be yours to control, not some CEO of a tech company that you used to trust with your business.

Second, Parse is releasing the open source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server. Once you have your data in your own database, Parse Server lets you keep your application running without major changes in the client-side code. While this gets you off their servers with a “somewhat” functioning API, the software will not be maintained and some critical functionality will be missing.

You have come to rely on Parse, and they are leaving you in the dust. There are a lot of options. Options that can be customized to your business. We are here for you and will strive to make this transition as easy and straightforward as possible.

Still have questions?

Schedule a free consultation

One size does not fit all, especially for your business. There are several options across multiple infrastructures, software and languages that could be a fit.

We will advise you on the environment that is best for your business.

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Custom Software Development Vs. Free Consumer Apps in the Workplace

Businesses should always be looking to cut costs, but avoiding custom software development in leu of free consumer apps is not the best route.  Some organizations may think that allowing their workers to bring their own applications into the office is an easy way to save on software procurement costs. According to TMCnet contributor Rory Thompson, however, you’re generally at risk of getting exactly what you pay for – nothing. Free, consumer apps often come from questionable sources and are not as powerful as enterprise-geared apps.

This is why it’s important for businesses to invest in custom software development. Companies can’t get the most out of employee devices if the programs that inhabit them are of an inferior quality. The best way to avoid this is to be involved in the design process of a new application that is built specifically for the organization that plans on using it.

A hands-on approach is the best way to go
According to TechRepublic contributor Will Kelly, mobile app usage in the workplace can be “risky.” But this is only true when best practices are not applied. Flexera Software VP Maureen Polte told Kelly in an interview that companies must “take a comprehensive approach” when managing an app’s lifecycle in order to succeed.

“Start with a consistent Application Readiness process that enables a standard procedure for getting all applications, regardless of format, tested, authorized and ready for deployment,” Polte stated. “Additionally, enterprises can control distribution and provide governance of applications by directing employees to an enterprise app store where they can download corporate approved mobile apps to their devices.”

This is critical to keep in mind when planning change around the company. Failing to understand what solutions are being put into place – approved or otherwise – will negate any of the benefits that are supposed to be unlocked.

Meaningful strategy is key
There has been a lot of talk about “the workplace of tomorrow.” More people are finding that it is possible to meet goals in new, streamlined and simplified ways thanks to mobile technology. But for businesses to harness this power, it means there will need to be a clear idea put into place of where new assets will be able to take professionals.

“Without strategy, organizations may develop workspaces with what may be excellent technology, hoping it will fix all their problems, but which will result in spectacular failures,” wrote Network​ World contributor David Danto. “These failures are usually not because the technology was ‘bad,’ but rather because it did not fit in with their actual needs (which they never took the time to properly discover).”

This means that companies have to not only provide a single tool for everyone’s use, but they also have to keep the needs of employees in mind when they do so. Nothing can stall a deployment faster than a program that doesn’t meet the needs of the workers.

The only way to accomplish this is to invest in custom software development for the organization. Having customized tools in place will allow workers to get the most out of their devices.

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Are nonprofits getting the most out of digital currency?

Nonprofits need to go digital

One of the biggest pain points that nonprofits have to deal with is fundraising. Maintaining a consistent flow of donations and financial contributions can be extremely difficult without an effective strategy and high-quality software tools in place. If nonprofit organizations fail to give these matters their proper due, they may see their stream of donations dry up, making day-to-day operations far more difficult.

Fundraising issues affect both organizations that rely on private contributions and those that receive government support. Many government bodies struggle to pay nonprofits on time and in full. According to a National Council of Nonprofits study, 45 percent of responding nonprofits reported that government agencies are frequently late with their payments. Furthermore, the average state government owed more than $200,000 to each nonprofit it worked with.

“Digital currency offers a quick and easy way to donate.”

Financial issues continue to be a significant cause for concern among nonprofits. A 2014 survey from the Nonprofit Finance Fund found that 28 percent of participants had a deficit at the end of their 2013 fiscal calendar. In response to these issues, many nonprofits are looking for opportunities to diversify their funding sources and bring in new contributions. Thirty-one percent of nonprofits said that they would change their primary avenue for raising money within 12 months of the survey.

Clear roadblocks for donors
In this climate, it’s critical that nonprofits take advantage of every opportunity to increase their funds and contributions. One way that organizations can improve their funding efforts is by removing any barriers or bottlenecks for potential donors. Digital currency offers a quick and easy way for interested parties to donate to their charity or nonprofit of choice. Although many nonprofits have traditionally received cash or check payments as contributions, neither is ideal. It takes time for checks to be deposited, and there may be issues with them clearing. Furthermore, payments sent through the mail could be easily lost, representing missed opportunities for additional funding.

Digital currency, on the other hand, can be transferred almost immediately, eliminating these types of issues and putting critical funds in the hands of nonprofits. Organizations in this sector are starting to take notice of digital payment services and their benefits, using such platforms with greater frequency. According to the Nonprofit Technology Network’s 2014 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study, online donations are on the rise, increasing 14 percent in 2013 alone.

Mobile payment apps enable donors to send contributions with the click of a button.Mobile payment apps enable donors to send contributions with the click of a button.

Tap into new funding sources
Finance consultant and TechSoup contributor Dave Landry, Jr. noted that by embracing digital currency platforms, nonprofits could appeal to an entirely new donor base, further increasing contributions. For instance, younger demographics may be more likely to prefer online payment systems over traditional avenues.

“For people who might not have donated to a nonprofit or charity before, the post-wallet economy offers all sorts of new opportunities,” Landry wrote. “For nonprofits, this whole new world can make doing good easy and even fun for people.”

Another benefit to digital currency is that it helps cut down on waffling from potential donors. When weighing the prospect of making a contribution to a nonprofit, an individual may be discouraged by the amount of effort needed to complete the transaction. Filling out a check, addressing an envelope and heading down to the nearest post office to mail a donation can be a time-consuming process. Ultimately, an interested donor may decide it is not worth the effort. Because digital payments can be made almost instantaneously, there is less risk of a potential contributor walking away.

When considering payment platforms, nonprofit organizations may want to deploy custom software solutions. Many e-wallet services are designed with private businesses in mind and may not properly consider the needs of nonprofits. By working with a specialized software consulting group, organizations can obtain software that has been created specifically around their needs and demands. This way, they can address any number of unique concerns like transparency, compliance and reporting. Furthermore, payment apps can be custom built with a donor audience in mind to help encourage conversions, resulting in more funding overall.

Even in circumstances where IT budgets are tight, nonprofits can benefit tremendously by deploying a digital currency platform geared toward their specific needs.

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Wearables are the future

There are many people out there that are quick to dismiss wearables as a fad or a gimmick. This is ironic, given that many of those that are against wearable tech probably said the same things about the smartphones that they’re likely using at this very second. Wearable technology is capable of fulfilling responsibilities, but it is disruptive in the sense that people might still be unsure of how it is valuable.

Negative sentiments are likely to dissipate in the relatively near future, however. According to ZDNet contributor Liam Tung, a recent study from Ovum found that wearable shipments could reach 50 million units in 2015, thanks in no small part to the impending release of Apple Watch. This signifies a great number of people who are ready to see how wearables can improve their lives – both in the personal and professional sense.

As more consumers begin to adopt wearable technology, businesses are going to have some significant opportunities laid out in front of them. Customer and employee engagement alike are undoubtedly going to be effected by these new devices. As they have more positive experiences with headsets and smartwatches, they are going to be expecting enterprise support in a number of new ways. In order to successfully capitalize off of this development, custom software solutions are going to be critical.

Wearable tech has much to offer enterprises
While much of the hype regarding wearables has surrounded consumer use cases, the enterprise is already expected to see a powerful boost from these devices as more employees bring them to work. According to TMCnet contributor Carrie Majewski, the enterprise is expected to see a significant amount of disruption thanks to the arrival of wearable tech. A number of different industries are slated to see some big assistance from wearables – namely when talking about professions that can benefit from hands-free interfaces.

“Perhaps no industry stands to benefit greater from wearable technology then field service workers, like a cellphone tower technician,” Majewski wrote. “Such knowledge workers can rely on the technology to communicate equipment malfunctions and remedy problems in real-time as opposed to waiting days for the company to be notified of a problem.”

Doctors are people who will definitely benefit from this kind of functionality. According to ITProPortal contributor Jamie Hinks, Google Glass gained attention in the healthcare sector thanks to augmented reality. Being able to look at a patient’s x-ray overlaid on their body can be a huge help and also allow for increased eye contact.

The importance of software
These new devices represent a great deal of change for businesses, but they are not the only part of the equation. Like other machines, software is an essential component for wearable devices. This was something that many organizations didn’t consider when smartphones first arrived in the workplace. Those that didn’t regulate employee use in the right way found a number of risky applications handling their data – and leaking it into places where it didn’t belong.

But while security is a major issue that has to be addressed with custom software, it is not the only reason to seek mobile application development. Functionality is also a major consideration. Programs designed for any company to use often provide ineffective blanket solutions that fail to address the individual needs and desires of the organizations themselves. A shoe has to fit a foot just right in order to provide the greatest level of comfort and endurance, and the same can be said about applications and the companies that support them. If a pre-designed solution isn’t cutting it, a custom offering may be what’s required to keep pushing the organization forward.

“If the software isn’t building revenue opportunities, lowering costs, creating operational efficiencies, reducing risks, or making other tangible contributions to your end business, it’s time to step back and assess exactly what the software is doing for you,” wrote TechRepublic contributor Mary Shacklett.

Time to embrace wearable technology
While Apple Watch is still a few months away from being released, businesses may not have wearables on their radar. The growth of these devices, however, is expected to be explosive. Those who wait too long to consider how wearables will impact their organization may find themselves in a similar position that the smartphone-averse found themselves in when mobile touchscreen interfaces first started to make an appearance.

One of this biggest things that will have to be taken into account is software. Professionals are going to expect that their wearable devices are supported by enterprise programs in the ways that they need them to, meaning that is the time to invest in new applications. Whether amending an existing program or creating an entirely new one, custom software development is going to play an important role in wearable success.

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Mobile without browsers – Death of web is nigh!

14% of time spent on mobile devices is in the browser compared to 86% in apps.

Flurry said in its 2014 mobile report

This may be news to some of you, but we have been talking about this for several years. The browser is, and always has been, a duct tape solution for delivering content. You might have gotten a hint when businesses started the “Mobile First” mantra, but the reality is that the writing has been on wall for much, much longer.

A quick search of “death of web” will reveal the many others that prognosticate the same sentiment. To be clear, it’s not the web content that is losing popularity, it’s the web browser.

Of course, we actually spend a lot of that time in apps on the mobile web (i.e. tap a link on Twitter); it’s just that we’re accessing the web in non-browsery ways.

The death of the browser has been a slow and steady process, but I believe Apple Watch will now be the nail in the coffin. Not only is there no Safari, but no one seems to notice or care! Imagine if Apple Watch had no Messages or no Weather or no… Uber!!! People would riot. But no Safari? No problem.

There is just no place (literally) for browsers in our post-phone world. But what about search, you say? You are confusing browsing with searching. If you need some info, just ask Siri. Or I’m sure Google will make an app for Apple Watch too.

The point is, if Apple announced a computer with no web browser, or a new version of iOS with no web browser, or I don’t know, a new MacBook with no ports, people would freak out. Like the way they freak out about everything Apple has ever removed ever.

And yet the lack of reaction, or even acknowledgement, that there is no Safari on Apple Watch, leads me to believe that not only is Apple right to not include it, but we are actually ready to accept it: a wearable world with no web browsers.

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Technology and nonprofits go hand in hand

Nonprofits embrace technology

Technology is an extremely important part of everyday life for all of us – from personal experiences to enterprise-related goals. This is something that more nonprofit organizations are realizing, and as such they are looking for new ways to implement it within their offices.

“It should come as no surprise that every company is different – even if they do the same thing. This is especially true for nonprofits.”

But what is technology in relation to nonprofits? According to NTEN contributor Peter Campbell, it should be a philosophy. Like businesses that are for-profit, there is no one-size-fits-all kind of solution here. Instead, tech should be turned to as a way of improving existing practices on a case-by-case basis that considers the actual organization in question.

With this in mind, those nonprofit organizations that are hoping to invest in mobile applications should look into custom software development. Programs are generally created to meet a specific need, but they also have to be built to serve individual companies.

Keeping people connected
Mobile technology has increased the number of ways that people can connect with one another – not to mention the frequency at which they communicate. The world is getting smaller, and nonprofits stand to gain a significant amount of traction through the use of smartphones, tablets and apps. Making it easy and convenient for people to participate in a cause ultimately improves the strength of the nonprofit in question.

“To succeed, a movement needs much more than ad campaigns or ‘astroturfing,” wrote Harvard Business Review contributors Jeremy Heinmans and Henry Timms. “Leaders must be able to actually mobilize true believers, not just talk at them. A key new power question for all organizations is ‘Who will really show up for you?'”

Smartphones help to connect more people with nonprofits.Smartphones help to connect more people with nonprofits.

Meeting specific organizational needs
It should come as no surprise that every company is different – even if they do the same thing. This is especially true for nonprofits. According to Campbell, every nonprofit is unique, and as such their solutions have to be tailored to the specific needs of both their internal and external stakeholder. This is particularly important to remember when it comes to applications and what is best to leverage. This is why custom software development is so critical to pursue. The apps that are leveraged have to work for the company that needs them, and the same principle absolutely applies to not-for-profit agencies and organizations.

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Enterprise mobility concepts have place in nonprofits too

Enterprise Mobility for Nonprofits

There have been countless new ideas that have stemmed from widespread smartphone adoption. In fact, many businesses have been founded on a concept that would not have been possible without the popularity of consumer devices like the iPhone. Services like Uber and Lyft, for example, have changed how people catch a ride. This has caused some serious disruption in the taxi and livery industries.

“Engaging an audience is easy in a software-defined setting.”

But one other place that this idea could take hold is in the nonprofit sector. According to Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Jeanne Allen, ridesharing capabilities have been used by nonprofit organizations to help provide relief in areas that have been struck by a natural disaster. This helps people to stay mobile even if their own cars or normal means of transportation have been disabled.

Nonprofits have a lot to learn from enterprise mobility. There are a number of different ways in which solid business strategies can be appropriated for the nonprofit industry in order to better serve people in need. While individual use cases will vary, there is one thing that’s certain: Custom software solutions are the only way to go. While there may be other apps out there that do the same thing that a nonprofit is trying to accomplish, programs have to be designed for the specific entities that are using them in order to experience the best possible results.

Apps help build community
Nonprofits don’t necessarily have a consumer base as much as they do a community to engage. According to Business 2 Community contributor Wendy Burt-Thomas, this is why former Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman believes that social media is so valuable to nonprofit companies.

“There is a difference between a community and a crowd,” Ulman said, according to Burt-Thomas. “In a crowd, people push and shove and try to get a step ahead. In a community, people look around, they smile and share a story, because they know that a community doesn’t move forward unless they all move forward together.”

It’s undeniable that social media got a huge leg-up from the constant accessibility enabled by smartphone and tablet applications. This is something that nonprofits have to keep in mind – the sense of community that they’re looking for can be found in apps that encourage social interactions and involvement. Engaging an audience is easy in a software-defined setting, and doing so can help nonprofits to increase awareness, donations and support by making these things fun, simple and social.

Social media apps have helped to prove the importance of community in mobile connectivity. Enterprise mobilitySocial media apps have helped to prove the importance of community in mobile connectivity.

The importance of custom software
For any given task, there are countless apps out there that claim to be capable of handling it. But many of these programs are not designed with specific organizations in mind, meaning they only have a general understanding of what a company actually does. In order to make sure that a nonprofit gets the most out of an application, it’s important to invest in custom software development. This will ensure that target audiences are engaged and the overall goal is reached.

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For nonprofits, the time is now for mobile investment

The idea behind the success of the smartphone is that it can be used to do almost anything. Modern mobile devices have a seemingly limitless potential when it comes to improving a user’s everyday experience, and this is something that nonprofit organizations are starting to realize.

“Whether [custom software] is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.”

According to First Nonprofit Group, this goes against the common notion that nonprofits are “behind the times when it comes to embracing technology.”

“[T]he truth of the matter is that nonprofit groups are diving headfirst into technology through social media, search engine optimization and a number of digital strategies that help charities and foundations thrive in a world where there is increasing competition for donors’ attention and contributions,” FNG stated on its website.

Mobile investments are becoming essential for nonprofit entities. While there may have once been a question as to whether or not this was something to pursue, it’s now an issue of when to seek out custom software development. Chances are, sooner will be better when it comes to bringing smartphones and tablets into the equation.

Beginning the process
According to nonprofit tech consultant Beth Kanter, the first place to start when working on an app for a nonprofit is to identify a purpose. Too often there is a likelihood that an app will be created without having a goal behind it. This is an easy way to build a useless piece of software.

“Unless an app makes a person’s life easier or better, the app won’t be used,” Kanter wrote. “To be certain that this is what will be accomplished, a nonprofit should clearly determine its goals for a project before embarking on the development of an app. If it is mission-based and serves the needs of the audience, then an app might be a worthwhile solution.”

This isn’t just true for nonprofits, but for any organization. Functionality is key for mobile apps, and if users don’t perceive one, they are less likely to adopt the program. Whether this software is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.

Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.

Custom development is imperative
Even more than having an app or a purpose behind it, it is essential to make sure that programs are developed for the specific organizations that use them. Custom software solutions are critical for all kinds of companies, and nonprofits are right up there with the others.

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