Digital transformation through an attorney’s eyes

Digital transformation through an attorney’s eyes

Like many of my colleagues at Shockoe, I began writing computer code in a high school classroom.  However, in my case, the school was particularly advanced for its time in offering such a course, and our “computer” was a keyboard, dot-matrix printer, and a modem connection to the University of Virginia, where the actual computer occupied an entire floor of a large building.  And while most of those colleagues went on a path that brought them relatively quickly to Shockoe, I spent two decades working as an attorney in New York, Seoul, and Virginia.

Now in my third year of software development I have felt particularly happy to be at Shockoe because I believe it addresses needs that I often saw during my time working as an attorney, needs that I am certain are shared by many industries.

In my experience, the following was typical of the manner in which law firms implement technology.  First, the decisions are made by senior partners who, being busy with the representation of clients, have little time to keep up-to-date with what is available or most desirable in technology.  This leads either to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, or an attempt to take care of the problem in one fell swoop with a package solution that may or may not fit comfortably with the way they have set up their practice.  In the latter case, the acquired technology may go unused, or used only to the extent required by the firm.  For example, if a time-tracking application is difficult to use, an attorney may keep track of his time on post-it notes as she always did before, then have her secretary type it all into the application at the end of the week.

In either case, what then happens is that employees begin finding their own solutions. Each attorney and his or her assistants devise their own system, piecing together hardware and applications as they see fit.  Depending on their level of technological sophistication, they may, or may not, arrive at a solution that works well for them.  However, this approach drastically reduces the potential for collaboration, and creates a host of potential problems, as the less technologically-adept might adopt solutions that introduce security vulnerabilities or other problems.

Although so often noted as to sound trite, an average employee today with a typical mobile device is comparable to an employee with superpowers two or three decades ago. To make the most of those powers, however, requires sophisticated solutions.  This includes, of course, a focus on the possible pitfalls of any new technology. A device that allows employees to watch training videos at convenient times may also allow them to spend the working day watching Netflix. Large collections of data become valuable, and thus must be protected, not only from hackers in foreign locales but from disgruntled or former employees.  Yet while minimizing risk demands much attention, it is just as important to make certain that new technology is used to its full potential. Making one’s workforce five times more efficient is simply not good enough in a competitive business environment if the competition makes their workforce eight times more efficient.  

This is what excites me about working at Shockoe, being able to use my skills to allow our clients to make the greatest possible use of the technology available to them. Apps created now increase employee productivity, streamline task performance and ensure employees have real-time data access they need for day to day exchange opposed to the opposite stagnant mentality. If this sounds familiar to you, check out our work for Financial Services Mobile Technology and contact us for any innovative ideas to help your team tackle your digital transformation with a great mobile strategy.

Product Management in App-griculture

Product Management in App-griculture

Back in the day, when life was simple and technology was limited, dairy producers would keep track of their herds by using journals or notebooks. As time as passed, adoption of computer software increased where data could be entered, but only after jotting it down on the farm first. Nowadays, there is mobile technology everywhere and there are apps out there to support all kinds of activities – including dairy farming.

How convenient is it for a dairy producer to take his phone or tablet anywhere to keep track of his/her herd? Well, to keep to a one-word answer – “extremely”. Not only is it a time savings by not having to log something on a piece of paper and go back and enter it onto a computer, it’s the convenience of having the information with you all the time.

Here at Shockoe, we have had the opportunity to work closely with a couple of clients to build apps for the dairy farming community. As part of the process, we had conversations with the future users of the app (dairy producers, veterinarians, and animal technicians) to learn how they use their existing software and what was missing.

As we traverse through the mobile development lifecycle with our clients, our product management practice focused on a few key main areas to ensure we meet our client’s needs:

1. User Experience

If users open the mobile app and don’t feel like there is any value for it, they will quickly delete and continue to use something else. The app needs to have the functionality to allow the users to accomplish their tasks, but also be structured in a way for easy navigation and reliable performance.

2. Simplicity

Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This and the principle, KISS, that has been around since the mid-1900’says it all. If a mobile app is not intuitive and easy to use, it will not be used – even if it on a device being carried around all day.

3. Security

If data or user information is not protected, the app is a huge failure. Users need to know the mobile application they are using is safe to use. This means securing the code, securing the device, securing the data, and securing the transactions.

4. Analytics

What is the most common functionality used in the mobile application? Which functionality is the least used by users? How long are the sessions for a user? Answers to these questions and feedback from the users, help determine what enhancements can be made for future versions. It just doesn’t stop after the mobile is pushed out to the stores, monitoring and evaluating needs to occur.

Dairy producers, vets, and technicians need the ability to access information about their animals, update data, and also perform various functions throughout the day. Following these key elements and working closely with the users, allows us at Shockoe to deliver a high quality mobile experience.

Course 491 – The first Cross Platform App with Design on Your Mind

Course 491 – The first Cross Platform App with Design on Your Mind

So, you’ve got a great idea but you need some help. iOS, Android, Windows, Web? Smartphone or Tablet? What platform and device should you focus on when building your first app? While I can’t answer that for you, I know there are tools that can help along the way, and that was the first topic we focused on this week.

Start by downloading the necessary tools so you can follow along, don’t worry they are all free, as long as it is for personal use. Once you are all set up, lets build your first app. We will call it the “Click Here App”.  If you are unsure as to what tools you need, check the helpful link section of this blog, but its always helpful to start at the Appcelerator Quick Start Site

Now, open Titanium on your Mac (For PC users, your first step is to buy a good hardware! I am kidding, but seriously do yourself a favor)

VCU_Week 2

Select “New Mobile App Project” and then select “Alloy” and “Two Tabbed Alloy Application”.

VCU_Week 2b

  1. Project Name: Give your app a name
  2. App ID: Reverse domain notation, you will need to use your own domain to deploy the app, but for now you can use anything.
  3. Deployment Targets: Lets focus on Android and iPhone for your first app, make sure these are selected and the rest are unselected

Lets start by changing our first files: index.xml, index.js, and index.tss

  1. In the first file, index.xml, you will add the following code:

<Alloy>

     <TabGroup>

                            <Tab title=”Tab 1″ icon=”KS_nav_ui.png”>

                                                   <Window title=”Tab 1″>

                                                                          <Label id = “Label1” onClick = ‘onTestClick’>Click Me</Label>

                                                   </Window>

                            </Tab>

                            <Tab title=”Tab 2″ icon=”KS_nav_views.png”>

                                                   <Window title=”Tab 2″>

                                                                          <Label>My Text</Label>

                                                   </Window>

                            </Tab>

     </TabGroup>

</Alloy>

In this file, we will focus on three things: (1) Assigning an ID for our Label; (2) Assigning a function to the Label; and finally (3) Changing the name of the field Next, lets update index.js; warning you will be adding your first function to the app

function onTestClick(evt) {

     alert(‘Hello Window 1’);

}

$.index.open();

Function, what?!?!  You just built your first function.

Now lets add some color, lets change the index.tss file. Its only two changes: Updating the label name and the label name color, lets make it orange, like Shockoe’s Logo

“Window”: {

     backgroundColor: “#fff”

}

“#Label1”: {

     width: Ti.UI.SIZE,

     height: Ti.UI.SIZE,

     color: “orange”,

     font: {

                            fontSize: 30,

                            fontFamily: ‘Helvetica Neue’

     },

     textAlign: ‘center’

}

VCU_Week 2c

There you have it, your first Titanium App for two platforms: Android and iOS. Your last step is to run it on the simulator. Lets run our first app on an iPhone 5s. Make sure that device is selected before you run your app.

VCU_Week 2d

Now that you are ready, lets talk design. Lets start with basics, but log in next week as we go into details. Lets start with basic design fundamentals to keep in mind:

  • The UI should be clear enough to help people interact with content; not compete with it
  • Text, Images, and Icons should be clear and legible at every size (Make sure to follow the guidelines)
  • Functionality should motivate the design
  • Visual layers and realistic motion are important to increase users understanding
  • Make sure you design for all devices and modes to make users enjoy your content

Apps don’t come with user manuals, but devices make it very easy to delete an unwanted app.

Some of the general design principles to keep in mind when designing your first app are: (1) Functional Design; (2) Design Consistency; (3) Feedback; (4) Real-life animation; and (5) User Autonomy

Helpful Getting Started Links:

Development Support:

  1. Titanium Studio
  2. Titanium Setup – Getting Started
  3. Xcode
  4. Android SDK
  5. Genymotion

Design Sites:

  1. Human Interface Guidelines
  2. Android Design
  3. Material Design
Teaching Course 491 – Week #1

Teaching Course 491 – Week #1

It seems like every day brings news of yet another development or venture at Shockoe; this time it was Adjunct Professor Roles at VCU. Last fall we met with the Chair of the Computer Science Department who asked Edwin and I to teach the first Mobile Development Course at VCU. Dr. Cios was very well aware with the challenges facing graduating students and the needs for skilled mobile developers in the market place. Just last year it was estimated that over of 40% of Internet Traffic was conducted through mobile devices, which means mobile is no longer something anyone can ignore, including universities.

It seems like we are approached every day by vendors, partners, clients, and developers with new mobile challenges and requests. While Shockoe is challenged every day to help build and define new mobile platforms and capabilities to solve these challenges and define new ways to solve every day problems or conduct business we feel lucky to impart some of this knowledge and experience with VCU. Although the primary purpose of the course is teach students how to develop mobile applications for iOS and Android, the students will have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of mobile strategy, design, and key mobile application architecture techniques. We will use real world examples to give students the opportunity to learn the benefits of mobile application planning, design, development, and deployment.

While our primary purpose will be to teach and better prepare students at VCU to design and develop incredible mobile solutions, we are offering our readers the opportunity to follow along over the next 12 to 14 weeks. We will summarize our lectures and post helpful links, with the end goal of giving you some insight into our class.

The challenge for this semester’s students will be to build a classroom app. In order to do so, we took concepts from Google’s brand new Classroom App as well as the Mobile Mind Shift Book. The first and most important part of building an app is to understand the “Mobile Moment” you are solving for. To learn more about Mobile Moments and Google’s classroom app, check out the following sites.

Google Classroom App

Julie Ask’s Blog

Being an intern at Shockoe, an exciting blog post from a young bachelor in the city

Being an intern at Shockoe, an exciting blog post from a young bachelor in the city

Many see an intern as the low man on the totem pole, and I am no exception. However, I bear this designation not with the corporate shame of an errand monkey, but with intense pride. I form the mighty foundation of our close-knit team of developers and managers here at Shockoe. It is upon my broad, well-muscled shoulders that these lions and eagles of the mobile app industry stand to raise themselves to the highest of heights, achieving our clients’ wildest dreams and more. Above me on the totem pole, for example, is Bruce, a wise tortoise filled with an encyclopedic knowledge of javascript and enough puns to keep the entire office groaning all day. Or Andrew, the kindly giraffe, who picks leaves from the tree of debugging advice and fantasy football buzz, and brings them down to those who cannot reach. Every member of the team is helpful to me in different ways, and they amazingly all make time for me, never swatting away my questions like pesky flies…that would be a different type of debugging.

Now that I have regained control of my computer from Bruce I’m free to talk about all the different things I do here at Shockoe. In the two months I’ve been here I’ve helped design wireframes for clients, given my thoughts in mobile strategy meetings, tested in-progress apps, and currently, I’m even working on my own mobile app project, all while never getting coffee for anyone. Not once. They could have asked, and I probably would have done it, but no one ever did. It’s just never been that type of internship. True, there was some hazing at first, but after a few weeks, they finally let me hold the paddle with my hands during ping-pong brainstorming sessions.010-bullheaded

One of the coolest parts of my day is walking into the office in the morning in full view of Main Street station, the most iconic building of the city I grew up in and love, whose clock tower confirms that I am in fact on time. Once I settle in and we have our daily stand-up meeting, I can get back to work on a bug I’ve been thinking about, or a screen for an app that I’ve been designing in my head. Or I could be doing something completely different. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to augment my totem pole metaphor by saying that walking into Shockoe is walking into a jungle. There’s always a surprising new client or task lying in wait when I least expect it. I get a sense of adventure from working here, my steps cautious at first, but growing faster and more confident as I go along. And any sharp sensation I may feel on the back of my neck is not stinger filled with the deadly venom of a vicious predator, but the pleasant epiphany that I’m gaining more knowledge and experience every day. Either that or a ping-pong ball.

Building A World Class Sales Mobility Strategy and App

Building A World Class Sales Mobility Strategy and App

CIOs in top performing companies recognize the benefits mobility brings to their salesforce.  In 2014, we have seen an increased demand for mobile applications to enable corporate sales teams.  From planning to face-to-face meetings to post-call follow-ups, sales enablement solutions can be designed to streamline and support every step of the sales process.

Companies find it hard to achieve these benefits without a true mobile strategy, but if implemented correctly, we have seen the following benefits:

  • Pre-Sales Planning:  A customized mobile sales solution can point your sales force to sales tools, product information, and customer information, and calculators for specific selling situation.
  • Higher Customer Engagement:  Mobile solutions can enable data-driven decision support and assessment tools make it easier to deliver targeted, expert advice in consultative selling situations.
  • Faster Customer Follow-Up:  In a world were speed and service is critical, mobile solutions help businesses stay one step ahead.  Mobile applications streamline the capture of the customer information and interaction and can allow your team to send response e-mails and invoices faster.

Aside from these benefits, a good sales tool can also help reduce overhead, increase revenue with more sales per day per sales agent, and reduce material and workforce costs, all while making your teams more efficient

For more information, download our white paper or contact us at sales@shockoe.com

[wpdm_file id=3]

When Creating a Mobile Strategy, Being an Underdog is a Good Thing

When Creating a Mobile Strategy, Being an Underdog is a Good Thing

“Giants are not as strong and powerful as they seem.  And sometimes, the shepherd boy has a sling in his pocket.” – Malcom Gladwell

This September noted provocateur and Evangelist of Everything Outlier Malcom Gladwell gave an excellent TEDx talk on the unheard story of David and Goliath in which he concluded with the quote above.

In it, Gladwell defies convention instead of reinforcing the classic underdog tale of the young shepherd armed only with a sling.  Gladwell asks what the David and Goliath story was truly about and concludes that David was no underdog.  Rather, David was the perfect warrior with the perfect tool to defeat towering opposition and force an army into full retreat.

In part one of this two part series on Creating a Viable Mobile Strategy for Small Business, we’ll discuss why  this is the time to take what seems obvious to you mobile.  In the second post, we’ll focus on how  to get you there.

It’s a Great Time to Be a “David”
When David descended into the Valley of Elah 3,000 years ago, he knew what he was doing.  It was that everyone else was obsessed with conventional thinking to see the utterly predictable coming.  There are many Goliaths still striking terror into the current business landscape, but never has there been a better time to be a shepherd with a sling.

Right now, products like Aereo, Apple TV, ChromeCast and Roku have begun the systematic dismantling of the cable television business.  Don’t believe it will happen?  Just ask the music industry how their hubris allowed web and mobile devices to shrink their business model 64% in less than 15 years.  Even the tallest of giants can come crashing down.

Kings of the Digital Age
Over the last decade, we’ve seen one company go from a trusty search engine into one of the nation’s 50 most profitable businesses.  We’ve seen another go from an idea hatched out of a Cambridge dorm room to over five billion dollars annually.  We’ve just watched a third go public as the de facto SMS of the internet with a market cap of over $25 billion in the last month, all of which have been validated by Wall Street.

In the spirit of Malcom Gladwell, Google, Facebook and Twitter were never underdogs.  They were clearheaded ideas in the face of adversity and marketplaces that already had supposed victors.  Those companies and those ideas were perfectly suited for their time and place and with leaders and a clear vision on how to succeed.

The modern sling of business is reaching customers through the web and mobile technology.  True, not all of us are destined to become kings of ancient Mediterranean civilizations, but small businesses are more capable of taking on anyone now more than ever, if they have the courage to do what they are already doing to pinpoint success.

You have an idea and the industry expertise.  Shockoe can provide the tools to accelerate your idea in the digital world.

Do you have the courage to do what you know will help launch your own digital kingdom?

Shockoe: Contact Us