Dealing with Widgets
I remember in school how all my professors used the ‘Widget’ to explain some concept of economics or contract law. Today a Widget is a real thing, and it has permeated into every aspect of how business is conducted. But who makes these cloud based apps and what are the benefits and risks of relying on them?
The Widget Makers
A majority of widgets today are standalone solutions, or integrate across various cloud based computer programs. Almost all work across multiple devices. Some of these widgets assist managers in a wide variety of tasks, from project management to simple to-do lists. The term “There is an app for that.” seems to be pretty accurate when scrolling across Google Play or Apple App store.
If it seems like everyone and their cousin has an app out, it's probably because they do. When browsing online learning sites, like Udemy and Coursera, I have found that there are a ton of courses touting that anyone can learn to develop an app from scratch, even several classes that claim they can have you making your own app in less then a day.
Since anyone, or almost anyone, who wants to make an app can, it has been scary for me to put my trust and faith into some random program. Take into account the increased complexity of cyber crime and specifically the targeting of small businesses and I've started to choose my apps like I choose anything, with a lot of research and googling. Basically I want to know if the app creator has some bona fide credentials or experience.
This is not just for the safety of my systems but also to ensure longevity and support in the growth phase of my business cycle. Good app ideas are just that, good ideas, and without the type of leadership that is going to ensure a company’s long term success there is little real value. I cannot trust a business process on an app with no future.
Blitzkrieg Widget Testing
A majority of the time, a company can do some sort of testing and make sure that whatever it is they are changing works well enough to apply on a larger scale. But if you’re little, like we are at Gluten.org, there isn’t a whole lot of ‘space’ available to test something. Usually only a few people perform any specific function. To take a group off task and have them give the free trial a shot in some detailed process is counterproductive and can really hurt short term goals. This has caused problems in the past when I’ve realized that something we were doing needed to be improved by incorporating technology or automating a process. Something must take place to reduce the risk of issues with full scale implementation, and at the same time I cannot bog down forward movement in other areas with more Gantt charts. The issue is in finding a work around that is comparable to actual testing that can help us generate the information needed to make a decision.
What I've found is actually kinda cool. Randomization seems to develop a really critical thinking environment. Let me explain. So you've found an app that looks like it is going to meet your requirements. Create your user profile, setup your account (don't link it to anything) and pick an employee. Then you just tell them to use it. Just one time. Give them as little info as necessary and hang back. Pretty quickly all the questions and requirements for further implementation come within the first half-hour. In the course of an hour I have enough information to have a good list of requirements and perhaps even weed out a couple of options. I've turned a 3-4 person team into my own personal group of beta testers. Of course you can only get away with this so many times before someone has had enough, but the amount of information gleaned through the process is worth the inconvenience.
From the feedback received I can determine the most likely candidates for success, areas where I would have to change business policy or procedure to implement a new app, and the amount of training needed for successful integration with minimal interruption. Effectively I've saved time trying to guess the more tricky aspects of app adoption. I'm blitzkrieg beta testing.
But is It worth it?
In some cases, yes. Widgets and apps can help an organization or team be more self sufficient and can streamline a process with minimal associated costs. My best recommendation is to use apps as disposable tools during small projects or to overcome specific one-time challenges. I use my Skype for Business account 99% of the time. But every now and Then I have to jump over to Google Hangouts. Could Hangouts be my 100% solution? Sure. But then my management of ActiveDirectory would be split, something that affects my Mobile Device Policy as well as my network security plan. In short choose your app usage wisely. Don't start off looking at apps as long term solutions, but instead use them to increase the effectiveness of more robust software solutions or to handle heavy seasonal workloads. And be nice, don't go crazy throwing new Apps around the office...