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By Chuck Leddy
When clients like Google, TimberlandPRO, and Boston Children’s Hospital need a video, André Query, creative director of Portsmouth, N.H.-based video production company Anchor Line, hits the road. And in order to make location scouting and collaboration with his team easy, he keeps a medley of mobile apps in his proverbial back pocket.
Collaboration app Slack is Query’s go-to digital tool for sharing photos of locations with his team, while app Helio helps him track the position of the sun when he’s planning an outside shoot. “Helio helps us anticipate where the sun’s going to be on a given day, at a given time,” Query says, “and that can make a big difference for us on a shoot.”
Utilitarian apps like these “have really streamlined how our team collaborates,” Query says. A decade or so ago, it might have taken Query an hour to simply upload a video file, “but now it’s nothing for me to quickly upload a video and send a link on my phone to a colleague or client and have them look at it immediately.” And, he points out, “we get to collaborate without having to be tied to our desks or laptops.”
For most small businesses, waiting in the office, or by the phone, isn’t the way to go or grow.
Fortunately, a burgeoning number of mobile apps enable instant and remote productivity, and support small businesses every step of the way, helping manage functions such as finance, HR, content creation, and more. Let’s look at how mobile apps have been adopted by four New England small businesses.
Apps at play
Sean Gallagher, founder of Downtown Boston consultancy Influence Success, helps organizations foster effective teamwork. He uses an app called Rebump to solve a common communication problem: people who don’t answer his initial emails. “Rebump gently reminds people, automatically, that I’m still waiting to hear back from them,” he says. “Now almost all of my email requests get answered.” Gallagher simply opens Rebump, sets a time for a follow-up reminder, and Rebump takes care of the rest.
For Mike Scopino, founder and design director of Copley Square-based design studio Nonfiction, apps facilitate communication and coordination. He says he and his co-workers rely heavily on the mobile apps from Google’s G Suite.
“When you’re a small business owner, you’re wearing so many hats at once,” he says. “And you and your small team are in constant motion. We rely on mobile apps in order to stay connected no matter when and where we work.”
It’s similar for Katie Burkhart, founder of branding firm KBurkhart & Co., located near Boston’s South Station. She and her team use Google’s G-Suite for remote collaboration, as well as the DropBox app for uploading and sharing files.
Influence Success consultant Gallagher travels often for business, conducting workshops in company conference rooms across distant cities, sharing best practices for how work teams can collaborate more productively. Gallagher boosts his own productivity by leveraging a number of mobile apps.
He uses Todoist to help him keep track of his daily and weekly to do’s. “It’s easy to use, syncs with all my devices, and reminds me exactly when I need to complete my pending tasks,” he says. For taking notes and storing documents in an organized fashion, he uses Evernote. “It has a great search feature, so I can easily and rapidly find what I need,” he says. “I used to have filing cabinets to store all my data. Now I keep nothing on paper and have it all in my pocket.”
Scopino and his design team use a time tracking and billing product called Harvest that has a mobile app. “The Harvest mobile app is fantastic for monitoring our productivity,” he says. It helps Scopino track the tasks his team is working on and how long it takes them to complete each one, which helps him calculate expenses and bill clients for work done.
Which apps get the most “likes”?
One person’s winning app is another’s dud. And everyone has his or her own process for determining whether or not an app works for their purposes. Burkhart’s evaluation is very black and white: “I need to be totally convinced that the app is making my life better in order to adopt it,” she says. And by better, she means “saving us time or providing some capability we didn’t have before.”
Burkhart also carefully assesses how any new app interacts or integrates with the apps her team already uses. If, for example, the Boomerang app, which allows users to schedule when an email goes out, integrates well with the Gmail mobile app (it does), then Burkhart might determine Boomerang is a good fit for her team.
Price, of course, plays a role for most. “It helps if the app is free or low cost,” Gallagher says.
Gallagher starts with a business need and then searches for an app to fill it. “Sometimes I just go into the app store and do random searches of tasks I need to perform to see if there’s a new app for that,” he says. For Query and his team, the evaluation process is more organic: “Someone will discover an app individually, start using it, and then we’ll decide as a company if we’re going to deploy it.”
Today, mobile apps are a key tool for getting business done. When business owners and employees merge their expertise with the available technology, they become both more competent and more productive. And there’s no excuse not to tap today’s problem-solving digital technology, no matter what the challenge to be overcome. Because there is, indeed, “an app for that.”
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