Modern Magic - There's an App for that!

AC Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.”

 

Technology is changing.  Not so many years ago computers were huge, cumbersome and by all standards today, slow.  A short time before that, “speeding” was traveling 35 miles an hour.  Before that, post or telegraph was the only way to get a message across the country.  Ah… times they are a changing.

Facebooking, tweeting, hashtags, tagging… computers, tablets, phones, watches…Technology is always changing and we all must change with it.

In a discussion on “How to deal with the Younger Generation”, Scott McKain, author and public speaker, asked, “…how many of these young people have we turned to them with a tool of our business, whether its our laptop, computer our phone and said, ‘help – I have no idea what I’m doing.”  He is right.  Boomers and to some extent Gen X and Gen Y are having to ask “the younger generation” how to use ever changing, ever evolving technology.

Certainly, that is an option, but there are others as well.  Learn what changes are available.  Learn to streamline your operations.  If there is an App that can do a job faster, more accurately, more efficiently, why not use it?  Rather than being afraid of change, embrace it.  And even if you just hate technology, think of it this way; if it takes away a chore and frees up your time to focus on your mission, isn’t it worth the effort?

Once you make the decision to grow with your technology, the next step is to find the best technology for you or for your purpose. When evaluating, ask some simple questions:

  1. What does it cost?

Bottom line, how much cold, hard cash do you have to pay to get the functionality of the app.

  1. Is it a user-friendly application?

Is it intuitive?  Does it take more work to get the results needed than the old method of doing the work? Remember, just because it is “new” does not mean it is better.

  1. Who else is using the app?

Do you know anyone who is using it?  What do they think of it? Has it been reviewed by other users?  What do they have to say?  Don’t limit your search of reviews to the ones provided by the manufacturer.  Often those are screened – after all, they want you to get their app.  Google the name of the app with “reviews”, check retailers for customer reviews which tend to be more honest.

  1. What exactly do you want it to do?

Make a list of every detail, every “oh, if it could only” – but be realistic.  An app on your tablet isn’t going to colour your hair. But it might help you find a hair colour you like better.

  1. What do you absolutely need it to do?

Now you have your list of wants, look at that list and consider what it absolutely, positively must do to make it worthwhile.  If you need a registration app and it doesn’t take payments, it is not really going to lighten your workload.

  1. Are there other apps available that will work with it to provide the full functionality needed?

People are creating new apps all the time. Some will do registration and appear to take payments when actually, they are simply transmitting the payment data to another application for processing.  That is OK, provided security protocols are in place.  It is also a bonus because other apps that will work with it add additional functionality that makes your life easier.  But it needs to actually work pretty seamlessly to make life easier.  You need to be able to see what other apps you need or want that do work with it and evaluate each of those as well.

  1. Will it work with other apps or software to give me greater functionality?

Similar to the previous question, does it work and play well with others? I used a weight loss app once that claimed it worked with all sorts of other apps to help track every thought that ran through your mind about losing weight.  And it did.  The problem was that once the information was in that app it was never coming out.  You could not export it, analyze any of the data.  It had lots of data, but no way to work with it – and no way to get it back out. It didn’t play well with others – particularly, me.  And now it is gone from my devices.

  1. Is it strictly device based or does it have a computer component that will make it accessible on a big screen?

Statisticians tell us that by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be Millennials.  That means the 50% are going to be old. OK, 35+.  Personally, I have seen the size of my computer monitors grow over the past decade.  Looking at the screen on my phone is becoming a joke ~ the type is just too small for me to read. My point?  If the app is only device based, are you going to be happy with it?  What about in a year – five years – ten?

Another thought on this topic is, again, functionality.  Mobile devices are growing in capability, but they are not at 100% yet.  There are still things that you can do on your computer that you cannot do on a device. As discussed in the previous question, will all the collected data be trapped in your device?

  1. Can you get modifications from the developer if needed?

This is an important question.  With rare exception, the answer will be no.  The rare exception comes in when

  • You know the developer and he is willing to work with you on it;
  • It is an app specifically designed to be modified for each user group, or;
  • You are willing to pay big bucks to get the work done. In which case, it might be more cost effective to hire a developer to create an app that does specifically what you want it to do. Hey, if you go that route and you have the rights to the app, you might make a fortune.
  1. What is the cost? – This one is different from the first question because here we are not talking about the fee to download it or even the “in app purchases”. What is the cost of using the app? 

 Consider:

  1. Purchase fee
  2. Modification fee
  3. What it will take in time and additional resources to fill any gaps in what NEEDS to happen and what ACTUALLY happens with the app.
  4. How much training time is required? How much will that cost?
  5. Will your members like it? Don’t just assume they will because it is new.  Remember, people hate change. Ask them.

Just like considering any new venture, do a cost/benefit analysis. If it is something cool and shiny, is it really what you need? There is nothing wrong with cool and shiny – IF it makes the job easier.

 

This list was slanted to apply “app” to those little downloads you can get for devices.  But really, it applies to any technology purchase.  Ask yourself those questions.  Some are going to be painfully obvious – do I really need to spend $400 on a good firewall? Yeah, you really do. Do I really need to buy the $8,000 computer that does professional level video production?  Well, maybe.  But if you don’t do video production, probably not, even if it is cool.  Some answers are going to require work, but the process will save you pain down the road whether talking about apps, computers, accessories, new office space or even a hair colour.

Don’t worry, as we discover apps that we feel are great – or horrible – we will let you know, and will give you an honest review.

Now, pull out your wand ~ or stylus ~ and let’s make some magic!