Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My First Robot and The Internet Of Things

I love my robot.  Yes, I own a robot and I'm proud of it.  Granted, many of you have owned one before me and know why robots are great but many others do not yet have the joy of a robot.

I bought a Roomba 870 recently as part of a special offer I received from Roomba through Bzzagent. I have wanted a Roomba for some time but Roomba's are expensive and I wasn't sure it was worth it.  When this discounted offer came up, I thought I had to try it and I'm glad I did.

I have 4 kids under the age of 12 and they are messy.  We kept buying quick sweepers for the kitchen cleanup so I thought a Roomba would make the job easier.  It did, but it does more than I expected cleaning the whole downstairs.  It cleans every day on schedule and only complains when it is full or stuck (I have a chair that it can get under but not out but otherwise this thing can't get stuck!).  I am somewhat scared by the amount of dirt it seems to capture every day but I guess that is the life of 4 kids and 10 friends coming and going all day.

The Internet Of Things
A robot vacuuming is cool and makes my life easier but that is just the beginning of where we are headed.  I also have a NEST thermostat which I love for so many reasons.  The most important is that it is so easy even my wife and kids can use it.  I love it because I can change the temperature in the house from my phone, laptop, tablet, or God forbid even at the thermostat itself...  This is a great feature especially when heading home from a trip.  I open the app and cool the house down (or warm it up on the few cold Florida days) before we get home.

I also recently bought a DropCam which is a video camera that is connected to the internet. This camera allows me to see the 2 playrooms upstairs and talk to my kids from my phone, tablet, or pc (God forbid I have to walk upstairs...) whether I'm in the house or on a trip.

Recently, I took a trip to Disney world and set my NEST thermostat to "away" which keeps the house from going over 86 degrees but stays off otherwise.  About 1 hour after I left home, I got a very disconcerting alert while I was in the car.  "MOTION DETECTED UPSTAIRS".  $#*!.  Ok, probably a false alarm. Nope, 5 minutes later, again, and again. So I opened the app to see what was going on. I couldn't see anyone in the house but something had to be wrong because I never got these alerts before.  Then it hit me.  I never got the alerts before because I never set NEST to AWAY before.  Yes, I had connected NEST to Dropcam and since I was "away" Dropcam automatically put itself into away mode and started sending me alerts.  That's when I noticed there was a half filled helium balloon that was moving ever so slightly.

This is the "Internet of Things" where things work together intelligently.  Some of the applications today are not too practical but we are headed for a time where we will have all sorts of new conveniences due to the connected state of our world.

I also have the WEMO light switches which are connected to the internet allowing me to turn off lights anywhere in the house.  One comes on automatically with motion.  Using IFTTT (If This, Then That), I can program these devices to come on automatically at different times when I set my NEST to away or at specific times for any number of reasons.

I imagine a day when Roomba knows when we leave the house and automatically starts cleaning.  Perhaps when I lock my doors using my internet connected locks.

Get ready, the internet of things is coming. Some things are ready and are worth your investment now (I recommend all of the above!).  Mostly, however, we are in the hype cycle where the hype outweighs the reality so be careful in what you buy or invest in.

Now if I could just get my VCR light to stop blinking...

Until then, I will continue to have fun scaring my wife and kids by turning off lights when they are in the house while I'm traveling.  And of course, keeping my air conditioning bill down by adjusting the thermostat to a higher temperature when I'm traveling even though they are home.  After all, the temperature being too hot can't be my fault if I'm not home to adjust it, right...?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

7 Truths About Electronic Communication in the Promotional Products Industry

Suppliers and distributors are finally moving forward in improving electronic communications. While there are plenty of hurdles still to overcome, the industry is finally moving forward and making real progress.

Here are things that are happening now:
  • Top suppliers are now providing inventory via web services. 
  • Top suppliers are sending order status via web service and via email formatted for electronic consumption (as well as human consumption).
  • Select distributors are sending orders with XML data so that the vendor doesn't have to re-enter most/all the information.
Plenty of work remains to be done:
  • Distributors need to provide accurate and complete information on purchase orders including attaching artwork.
  • Proofs must be delivered via web services or other method to reduce process complexity.
  • Vendors need to start sending invoices with both a PDF and XML attachments.
  • The configured product data issue must be solved.
Finally, more organizations need to start adopting the standards that are already working. A standard must supported by enough people it becomes a standard in practice and not just in name

Most small distributors and suppliers are dependent on the industry service providers to implement these standards and that is potentially bad news.  The industry service providers do want the problem solved. However, most (not all) service providers want to be in the middle of the transaction and place the priority on revenue rather than efficiency.  Therefore, the service providers may be a roadblock to improving industry electronic communication since most industry firms are dependent on industry service providers.

For larger firms not entirely dependent on the service providers, the collaboration has been increasing and has already provided a real return on investment.  The investments made by the larger firms comes at a high initial cost but with so many orders processed, the return can be relatively quick. These investments ultimately benefit firms of all sizes as more firms adopt the standards.

The most successful efforts have limited the up-front expense and delivered value to firms of all sizes.  Recent successes (see the first 3 bullet points above) were shared openly at the PPAI Technology Summit in Atlantic City and event attendees continue to collaborate via online groups (for IT staff only) further driving improvements in efficiency. All attendees agree that the primary keys to success include ensuring priorities are aligned and that up-front investments must be minimal.

In the meantime, there is something very basic and essential that all distributors should do that requires no technological expertise at all.  Distributors must provide an accurate purchase order to suppliers when placing orders (technology can make this easier but is not required).  In case you haven't heard, as many as 70% of all orders placed by distributors have some missing or inaccurate information.  Sending an incorrect purchase order electronically only exacerbates the problems.  In fact, most suppliers who receive "EDI" type orders from distributors today still manually enter the order into their system. Manual entry allows the supplier to correct the errors before processing which often involves a call to the distributor to get the missing information.

For suppliers, the most basic and essential thing you can do is make it very easy to provide the appropriate information. Provide your product data in a very easy to "consume" format so distributors can leverage this when placing the order to generate an accurate purchase order.

Unfortunately, significant money continues to be wasted on technology efforts that do not result in the desired outcome. This is not the fault of technology; it is the fault of leadership.  As a leader of your company or as a leader in the industry, it is your role to ensure efforts (technological or not) are focused where the results will deliver value.  Collaboration across a large group of suppliers and distributors is critical to achieving success when it comes to solving the industry electronic communication challenge.

If you have thoughts or ideas to contribute to improving our industry efficiency, contact me or leave a comment below.

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the Chief Information Officer at Geiger. Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world every other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

4 Security Tips Including How to Avoid The Cryptolocker Virus

Do you want to keep all your photos?  Do you want to keep all your documents? Do you want to keep all your client logos?  If so, you do NOT want the cyrpto virus or any variant of it.

Talk to anyone who lost their files recently due to clicking a link and you’ll be happy it did not happen to you.  Balancing security and comfort is getting tougher and we are all being forced to be less comfortable and more security minded.

Here is what you need to know:
1.      You must have anti-virus installed and you must keep it up to date
  a.      This is critical but does not guarantee your safety
2.      Check links before clicking them
  a.      Many links look legitimate but are not.
  b.      Look at the TO and FROM in the email. If it looks odd, don’t click the link.
  c.      “Hover” over a link in an email to see where it points.  If the link is different than the hover text, you should probably not click on the link.

In addition to protecting yourself from viruses, your email can be hacked causing all sorts of issues including having your bank account password reset.  Think about it for a minute. If someone can hack your email password, they can probably reset your passwords on your bank and nearly every other site that uses email to reset your password.  You need a strong password for email!

1.      Download and ensure all your computers use a good anti-virus product.  I am currently recommending (recommendations change all the time as new information becomes available) Bitdefender total security which will cover 3 pc’s and is on sale for $40 (This does not guarantee your safety).
2.      Be careful and double check any links or attachments before clicking the link or attachment. No anti-virus system can catch all issues especially this current nasty cryptolocker as it evolves quickly.
3.      Ensure you backup your computer regularly.  I recommend crashplan.com which claims to be able to restore your files to their pre-encrypted version if you get hit with Cryptolocker (it’s also easy to use).
4.      Use a password manager like Lastpass.com to protect your passwords and change your most important passwords (email, banks, etc.) at least every 6 months using a complex password (at least 1 number and 1 symbol in addition to characters).  Lastpass also helps you create complex passwords.

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger. Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

1 Way To Get More Out of Your Life

At home.
At work.
In the car.
In bed.
In the bathroom.

Put it down. "IT", is your mobile phone.
We are obsessed with our mobile phones (but you know that).

Give your undivided attention. You might learn something.
Give your significant other your undivided attention, you might find a meaningful connection.
Give your employees your undivided attention, you WILL learn something.

And in bed and the bathroom, relax. Sleep, pee, or whatever needs to be done. But disconnect from that darn device for a few minutes.

And in the car, please, please, for the love of everyone on the road, put it down. Don't look at it or type while driving. 

I'm not perfect but I've come a LONG way and my addiction to checking my phone is 10-20% of my all time high. I can even walk into a bathroom without pulling my phone out of my pocket. I'm happier for it. 

And if I don't get better, I'm going to start wearing this device to meetings. 

What do you think? Is there a market for this as a top selling promotional product?

Monday, May 19, 2014

5 Secrets for using Promos at Events

I recently attended Magento Imagine and Informatica world both in Las Vegas and got to see how non industry people are using promotional products at events.   Watching the booth staff and interactions from attendees was very telling on what should and should not be done.  I also spoke at Informatica World where I used promotional products in my sessions and was given a speakers gift before heading off to attend a Geiger event for top sales partners.  I'll share a lesson learned from each of these events.

1. Quality matters but so does the imprint
Magento gave away a very nice America Apparel t-shirt.  It's so soft, I love it. I wanted to wear it on my way back on the airplane. The logo on the front is nice, bold, and well done.  As I went to put it on, I saw the back also had several logo's and I decided not to wear the shirt.  Not everyone will be turned off by all these logos and and I'm sure the sponsors like the logo's on the back, but I'm not likely to wear that shirt any place other than around the house or gym.  I still like the shirt and it will remind me of the conference, but it won't get as much exposure as it could with 1 professional logo.

2.  Give speakers something meaningful
I got a plaque commemorating my speaking at Informatica world.  It broke before I threw it away. I would have thrown it away anyhow.  I don't need a plaque to tell me I spoke.  I definitely did not need to pack it with the clothes for this 10 day trip (Tampa to Vegas, Vegas to Cancun, Cancun to Philly, Philly to Tampa). Speakers travel.  Give them something useful when traveling that commemorates the event or give them nothing at all.  Power banks are an easy win.

3.  Booth giveaways should reflect your brand, not the event
At the booths, items were plentiful and almost all were sitting out ready for people to take.  One thing that struck me is the number of people using orange sunglasses and other orange items because the color of Magento is orange.  Unfortunately, this meant that everyone who gave away orange sunglasses all looked the same and did not help me remember the brand of the people I was speaking with.

4.  Let people be your brand on incentive trips
At the Geiger event in Cancun, we tattooed about 50 people on Saturday morning after the opening session. The tattoos not only creating a fun bond between us, it created a conversation with many people not from our company.  Stories were plentiful about people asking what the tattoo meant and how nice it looked (they did not realize the tattoos were temporary).  As you might imagine the tattoos were placed everywhere imaginable, arms, feet, bikini line, legs, chest, neck, face, and even the head.   Should be some interesting tan lines as people return home. 

5.  Use promotional items when speaking
For both my sessions at Informatica World, I gave away Gap sticks, screen cleaners, flashlights, and stylus pens.  I used them to encourage audience interactivity but all items were chosen specifically because they would fit in briefcases and suitcases.  It's important to keep items small enough (and desirable enough) to make it out of the hotel room. Beyond the products, the great content really ensured a good session, but the promotional items helped keep things lively.  I was also able to stress the value of promotional products to a few hundred people. I got lots of positive feedback from the session including this tweet:

Promotional products are powerful when used properly.  Help your clients not only pick the most creative products, but help them implement the best strategy to maximize their value.

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger. Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Too Many Priorities

Earth Day.

Promotional Products Work Week.

Technology Summit.

Decide between competing prioritiesSo many topics, which one should I blog about today?  The smart money is on Earth Day.  It’s the day this blog publishes and my “editor” at Promo Marketing reminded me 10 days ago that I would be published on Earth Day.  So there Kyle, I mentioned Earth Day. Happy now?  For the 2 of you who just might think about recycling your old electronics, head to http://greenergadgets.org/.

Then there is the promotional products work week from PPAI which started 4/21.  I support this effort and believe we all need to generate awareness of the value of our industry.  But hey, this blog publishes late on Tuesday, how many of you will really take action in the next 72 hours?  For the 2 of you who will, go towww.promotionalproductsworkweek.com and do something about it.

And in 4 weeks, the first PPAI Technology Summit will be held in Atlantic City May 20 & 21.  This event is for industry technology people (not you marketing people!) to get together to discuss and solve industry problems.  But so few of my readers are really technology people so why spend too much time on this.  But if you have a technology problem and a technology leader, send them to http://www.ppai.org/Education/Pages/ppai-technology-summit.aspx to sign up for what will be a valuable conference.  

So, instead of focusing on a single topic, I just spread the blog over 3 topics. Never really targeting the right person nor getting enough information to help people take much action.  And here lies the real story. 

You give your technology team the same “focus”.  If you treat everything as equal, very little is accomplished.  You have to set your priority and back your team when they focus on the priority to the point of excluding other topics. When a fire burns, they have to change focus, but just because you read the latest blog from an Industry IT genius (is there more than 1? J) that tells you to switch to the agile development methodology (which you should) doesn't mean they should stop what you had them start 3 months ago.

Priorities change constantly in business and in IT.  You have to adapt, but you need to keep the top priorities at the top and keep talking about the priorities every week.  Yes, this isn’t really a technology issue at all, it is a leadership issue.  And so much of good IT boils down to good leadership from the top IT person and the top executive.

If you remember nothing else about this blog and you’ve read this far, remember this:  Recycle, be energy conscious, support promotional products work week, attend the PPAI Technology Summit, adopt agile development, and focus on only a few priorities...

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger . Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Go Mobile, Or Go Home

Some people talk mobile. I live it.
I am, without a doubt, the most mobile CIO in the USA.   Name one other CIO that is so committed to mobile that immerses themselves all the way to the point of staying in a mobile home.

That WIFI bridge to lets you share an internet connection from a primary connection up to a mile away. (Yes, these are the same jean shorts from Jean Shorts are Not OK)

I've got my Samsung S4 wherever I go and I love my bluetooth headset.  But nothing like rocking with my monster bluetooth speaker. It's like being back in the 80's when I carry this bad boy on my shoulder.  And I can still look cool rocking my bluetooth headphones for phone calls on the other ear!

I love my ipad air.

My chromecast so I can stream Nascar from my ipad or S4 to my TV.

My slingbox for watching TV from wherever I am. I love slinging the DirectTV Sunday ticket to my mobile device when I travel.

My go pro for catching all the action.  I can't seem to find the right attachment for my cap...

My Zagg charger for charging my mobile devices.

My mobile humidifier from Brookstone. If water is good for your skin, PBR will be even better.

And my Bowflex weights don't travel well but they sure work well for small spaces.

Someday, I'm going to upgrade to an RV which is a bit more mobile, but for now, I'm still more mobile than any other CIO.

Go mobile, or go home.

Personal note:
The point of this post got lost in the fun of the photo's.  The original intent was to stress how important mobile will be to your business in the coming years and the importance of immersing yourself in B2B mobile e-commerce. Once I saw the photo's, I realized there was no possible way to weave in a serious message.  So, I'll settle for making you laugh and if by chance you start thinking more serious about your mobile strategy it will all be worth it.  But if you want to read a small excerpt of my thoughts on mobile, read Is B2B Mobile Important?

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger . Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Is B2B Mobile Important?

As a business, I need to ensure customers and people in the field have access to the information they need from their mobile devices.  But the primary use of mobile devices is still email and "social" type activities.  That is changing, but not as rapidly as the press would have you believe.

Yes, you need a mobile site and you should probably have one some time this year.  But at what cost?  There are so many factors that have to go into your mobile strategy, it's not simply "give me a mobile site".

What is the most important thing your customers really need? If 95% of your customers are using a desktop site and are not getting all the value they need, now may not be the time to invest heavily in mobile.

Of course, Google is said to be penalizing search rankings for lack of mobile responsiveness which if true, could be very critical to your business, if not your customers. Also, if you have a physical location where customers visit you, mobile is 100% necessary.  You must make it easy to get your phone number and address information (with a link to Google maps) via mobile.  

I had taken some pictures to help show the importance of mobile, but the photo shoot got a little out of hand. It became too silly to make serious but it might remind you that you should be immersing yourself in mobile. If you want to see the out of hand photo shoot - read Go Mobile Or Go Home.

And please, if mobile is more important than I am giving it credit for, share the reasoning.  For me it comes down to what does the user want/need which is why I penned "Don't Build that crAPP".

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger . Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

6 Reasons I Give Blood

1.  Brooke Kelly Pasch.
My niece Brooke Kelly Pasch lived 19 years thanks to many blessings including blood donors.  She touched more lives in 19 years than most of us touch in a lifetime and that is not an exaggeration. Her optimistic attitude despite her medical conditions touches people to this day.

2.  Mary Janis Laycock
Mary was my assistant for years and gave blood and talked me into getting over my fear of giving blood.  If it weren't for her, I probably would still be sitting on the sidelines.

3.  Free apple juice and snacks
Well, it's something...

4.  Your special.
Once I gave blood I learned my blood type is universal (O-) and can help anyone who needs blood.  My mom always told me I was special.

5.  My health
You get a free "mini checkup" every time you give blood.  Plus, they say it is good for your iron levels.

6.  Giving to others and nearly no cost to me
It really does feel good to give blood knowing that I am contributing to someone's life.  I am not sure how to explain how good it feels especially when logically I realize there is nearly no cost to me to do this other than about an hour every few months.

If you are afraid of giving blood, do what I did. Try it once.  I did and it wasn't so bad.  I did faint after my 2nd time because I didn't eat enough but Mary did not let me stop and I've donated many times since then and never fainted again.  
Giving blood March 30, 2014 in honor of Brooke Kelly Pasch.

Every time I donate blood I do so in honor of Brooke Kelly Pasch.  But I also think about all the other people in my life who have needed or will need blood.

In case you don't know where to go, I give all my blood through the Red Cross and they have locations and drives all over the place.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Windows XP – 4/8/14 RIP

I hope you aren't running XP but my guess is some of you still have a Windows XP system somewhere on your network or in your home. If so, take advantage of the $100 rebate Microsoft is offering and get a new machine before April 8th.  This link gives you the $100 off and free data transfer. Quite a good deal!

For those still running Windows XP, starting April 8th, you will no longer receive patches from Microsoft and you’ll be subject to exploits (virus, Trojans, malware) that will cause you problems.  Do not think relying on your malware software will protect you. Even with malware/virus protection, patched and unpatched computers alike are infected every week but the majority of infections are prevented by good virus protection and patched computers.  

If you work for a company that has not upgraded yet, you have issues to be concerned about since this represents a significant threat to security and PCI compliance.  Equally important for businesses, providing users the right technology is critical to efficiency and customer satisfaction. XP was great when released but Windows 7 is significantly better.

Windows 8 is even better from a stability and speed standpoint, but involves a learning curve that is not easily justified by the improvements. If you are are on Windows 8 and still struggling, check out this software to make it feel like Windows 7 (thanks to Geiger help desk guru Mike St Germain for the tip).  It takes time (and budget) to smoothly transition hundreds of computers and users to a new operating system so if you are still on XP, your company has a big challenge ahead.

You need to get rid of any XP computers now.  XP machines will be targets for hackers and if your system gets infected it is easier to infect your clients or the rest of your home/office network.  Shut those machines down now and if you can’t, ensure your IT leader immediately gives you a clear plan showing of the number of XP machines and when they will be shut down.  There is no excuse for any business (including banks which still run them on ATM's!) to be running XP at this point.

Dale Denham, MAS+, is considered the industry's top technologist and is the chief information officer at Geiger . Read Dale's thoughts on technology, business, and the promotional products world ever other Tuesday. Follow Dale on Twitter @GeigerCIO.

Monday, February 24, 2014

To Be Great, Iterate

IT is never done.   There is no end to any IT project.  There is only a "release" milestone.   When something is released.  The iteration begins.

To be great, you must iterate.  It helps if your first iteration is great, but it doesn't have to be.

Unfortunately, most of us want the first iteration to be perfect. So we load up the project with so much great stuff without regards for deadlines or costs. Then, we push the IT team to meet the deadline and budget anyhow.  The result is usually anything but perfection.

My team at Geiger is nearing release our new "out of this world" order entry system.  OK, it's not so out of this world at all (although we are quite excited about it).  In reality, it's the next iteration of the existing (and already well liked) order entry system.  The design is all new, the technology is all new, the process is similar but streamlined, and there are quite a few new features.

We left a LOT of features on the proverbial "cutting room floor" deferring many of our ideas to a future release in order to get the first release in the hands of our users.  We've made sure to include some slick features, like a wearables order entry that makes ordering wearables a breeze.  The enhancements will cut the order entry, training, and support time by about 1/2!  Most importantly, our users will love the improved experience.  Of course, part of the great experience is a reliable system which is why we are in various phases of "beta" now through release which is not until July!

When we release in July, the project isn't done. It's just the first iteration.  We've built this first iteration with future changes in mind ready to constantly add features our users request.

Prior to this, we iterated the design several times.  It started with a wireframe representation of how it should look.  Then a designer turned the wireframe into HTML and made improvements.  Then, a user experience designer further improved the UI (User Interface). Once the design was finalized, the first draft of the specification was written.  It followed a similar process of iteration.  This also involved adjustments to the UI.  Finally, code was developed using the UI and specifications available.  Developers were given the freedom to continue to make things better as they did their work.  Weekly reviews, consistent with our overall SCRUM/AGILE development approach ensured that the team delivered a product that met the requirements while also allowing for real time adjustments.  Essentially, each week we were iterating.

The next IT project you have, focus on getting the core features done really well.  Add a few bells and whistles to make the experience great, but not so many that you can't get the product released. Then, iterate.

To be great, iterate.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Magento Ecommerce

Magento.  It's the leader in e-commerce platforms for so many reasons.  And I can't find any platform that comes close to the features let alone the value.  The large development community, the number of extensions available, and the significant documentation/education makes it a great choice for ecommerce development.

For a great overview of Magento, read Mastering Magento by Bret Williams.  Whether you are a CIO considering a new ecommerce platform, the developer responsible to implement the platform, or somewhere in between, this is the book to help you understand the most about Magento.   If you are already experienced with Magento you may find this book redundant in spots but unless you are really strong in Magento, you will likely find something to benefit you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Don't Build That crAPP!

Apps are sexy, apps are cool, apps are oh so sexy and cool.
Apps are money, apps are fun, apps are full of value for everyone.
Apps are crAPP, apps are crAPPY, apps rarely make investors happy.

"I have this idea for an app" is how the conversation starts.  I brace myself. I want to be open minded, but I can't help it.  The app ideas floating around, especially in the promotional products industry, are crAPP.  I listen, I wait for it, and it never comes.

It is the reason someone needs to download your app rather than access your idea on the web.  But it never comes.  So I ask about it and I'm looked at like I have just asked the person if their kid is ugly.  They get defensive and tell me all sorts of reasons the idea needs to be an app.  A few of these ideas are reasons to write an app, but none apply to their idea.  Most of the reasons are crAPP and would work fine in a web browser.

Sure, I hate playing Words With Friends in a browser so I probably would have never played if they didn't build an app. But Words With Friends and most other great apps do things that are significantly faster or easier as an app compared to doing the same tasks in a browser.  What if Facebook had started as an app, would it have seen the same growth?

In the promotional products industry, the dominant service providers SAGE and ASI both have apps and with good reason.  They didn't start as an app, they started as DVD tools and then migrated to "online" software before building apps.  They had a big user base to build from.

So when you think "Someone needs to build an app for that", think about the following before you invest your company money into the app.

What prevents this idea from working on the web?
Many items previously unavailable to web apps are now available to web developers.

Can I get more users with the app than a web site?
In most cases, the answer is absolutely not.  People can stumble on your website. It's very hard to get someone to stumble on your app.

How will I get someone to download the app?
Send me an email to check out your app and I have to open it in the app store, click download, put in my password, and then open the app.  Send me a link to your web site and it's a single click.

Where are my users?
Thanks for the link to your app, but I opened it on my Galaxy S4 (Android) which means I can't use your iPhone app.

How will I train my users?
If you have a website and an app for IOS and an app for android, there will be nuances to each platform.  So your users will ask questions.  Evernote is different on each platform and while it is largely the same, users are confused when they switch from the desktop version to the app.  Do you have time to support and train users across platforms?

Instead of focusing on the app, you need to focus on the user.  What does the user want from your app? If it can be done in a browser, start with the browser and build your site specifically for mobile users. This lets you reach Android users, iPhone users, Windows phone users (all 4 of you), and desktops too.  And you can build your site with "responsive design" which means that if a desktop user is using the site, you can give them more information and/or functionality than a mobile user.   Then, work with your users to help them set up a shortcut to your app on their mobile device (click here to set up a shortcut on IOS or Android).

For Geiger, I am following my own advice, yet I'm still looking for a reason to build an app.  We will create an app at some point but only when the app provides more value than a well designed mobile site.

The web is sexy, the web is cool, the web is oh so sexy and so cool.
The web makes money, the web is fun, the web has value for everyone.
The web is excellent, the web brings delight, the future of the web is bright.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mobile - Add Website Shortcut to your Mobile Device

I am a proponent of building mobile friendly web sites instead of apps in most cases.  However, unless you have a shortcut to the web site on the mobile device, it does create an unnecessary step for users to get to your site.  So here is how to set up manually short cuts to web sites on your mobile device.  

IOS 7 (iPhone/iPad)

  1. Open safari on your IOS device.
  2. Visit the website.
  3. Click the icon near the top of the page with the arrow pointing up.
  4. Click add to home screen.
  5. Name the shortcut.
VoilĂ !

Android standard browser

  1. Open the Internet browser.
  2. Visit the website.
  3. Click the menu button on your phone.
  4. Click add shortcut to home.

Chrome browser on Android  
  1. Open the Chrome
  2. Visit the website
  3. Click the menu button on your phone
  4. Click add to homescreen
  5. Name the new icon

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Remember The Expo, With Evernote

Who made that cool new product?!?  You are just returning back from the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas when your client calls you with an urgent request for an important event and needs ideas today to place the order and have delivered.  You recall seeing 3 or 4 perfect items for the event, but you can't recall which vendor had the items and you don't know the proper keywords to find them in SAGE.

Don't let this happen to you.  You have a computer in your pocket and the most powerful (yet simple) organization tool available to you: Evernote.  Below I am going to show you the most important use of Evernote for you at the PPAI Expo.  There is much more Evernote can do for you (and if you attended my Evernote seminar at PPAI Education you'll know most!) so take the time to learn how to use Evernote and you'll be that much more productive.

First, download Evernote to your phone and your computer
It is free and available on iphones and droids.  It is also available for Windows and Mac.  The reason you want it on your computer is the information you store on your phone will automatically be available to you on your computer.  It's easiest to create the account on your computer but you can create your account from anywhere.

Now, the fun part!
You are at a booth and you see a great item and you want to remember it. Heck, even if it isn't "great" it's worth remembering for some reason and this only takes 30 seconds.  So you grab your phone and open Evernote.  

  1. Click the "+" button (new note) 
  2. Type heading such as "Car charger from XYZ "
  3. Speak (using voice to text) or type  in any notes such as: 
    1. Why you like it
    2. What client you have in mind
    3. What the price point is 
    4. Special pricing
    5. Booth number
  4. Click the camera button (click the paperclip icon and choose camera) and take a picture
  5. Add a Tag such as "Tradeshow"
  6. Click save 

When you get back to your office and you need to remember the cool items, just open evernote and click the tag TRADESHOW and all your notes will be there.  If you want to limit it to PPAEXPO14 name that as that tag instead of Tradeshow but I like fewer tags so I stick with tradeshow (Evernote sorts by date automatically so that lets you see the recent items first).  

If you need to search for a specific item and have lots of notes, you can type in "Car charger" and either include the tag or not.  That will help you find the item fast.  The more notes you type, the easier it will be to find, but when you are at the show, you will want to move fast so I recommend only important key words.  I also suggest:
  1. Use the voice dictation feature of you phone for the notes
  2. There is an option to include a voice recording (near camera, but says AUDIO) but it does not transcribe the text which means it is not searchable. But if you have a lot to say about the item or want to record the vendor saying something, AUDIO is a great option.
There are so many other uses for evernote.  I will post my slides from the Evernote session at www.slideshare.net/therealdaledenham for your learning pleasure.

Bonus tip to deal with business cards:
Take a photo in Evernote of the business card and throw the card away.  If you are using an iphone (I use android) there is a business card feature that automatically extracts the data into text.  Tag the card with Contact and you'll build a history of the cards that otherwise you'd lose in your bag and never find again.