The Value of Mobile Enterprise Communication Tools

By | Ideas For Your Business

Communication Tools Improve Business

Have you ever had the anxiety-inducing experience of being late for a flight and when you got to your seat there was no overhead space left for your bag? You had to make the awkward walk back to the front of the plane to gate check your bag. This is not only frustrating for you, but it also frustrates the airlines by potentially costing them millions of dollars. 

In 2018 it cost approximately $75 per minute to operate an aircraft.  Every minute spent waiting for your bag to be loaded costs airlines money. 

Delta Air Lines rolled out a set of applications called Flight Family Communication (FFC) in 2018 to help tackle flight delays by improving communication amongst employees. By building the FFC app that resides on employees’ existing devices, they were able to remove the reliance on antiquated tools like jetway phones, in-person conversations, or radio messages that could take employees away from their work stations.

This video from Delta provides an overview FFC:

As an output of this tool, they have been able to increase the efficiency and improve on-time departures on flights with less than needed ground time by 65%. Are there areas in your business where better communication tools such as FFC could improve associates’ jobs and the company’s bottom line? 

In addition to helping Delta implement FFC, BlueFletch has helped a number of other enterprises implement mobile communication tools that are focused on improving employee experience and productivity. 

Enterprise Communication Tools are valuable not because of massive one-time savings, but because of the myriad efficiencies gained over the course of a given process or workflow. Knowing when to roll or not roll a truck. Allowing a plane to start gate checking bags because overhead bins are full. Eliminating overtime while employees search for a product in the wrong place. 

Tips for Evaluating Enterprise Communication Tools

There are a number of off the shelf tools that help improve communication. You can also build a custom solution tailored precisely to your business similar to what Delta did. As you evaluate leveraging an existing tool or building your own, the following are key questions to consider: 

  • Role-Based Communication – Map out the roles within your organization. What are the common communications between different roles? Where are there areas where communication could be improved? An example of this would be in a retail scenario where your shoe salesperson has to call the stockroom on a walkie talkie to find out if a particular size is still available.
  • User-Based Communication/Presence – Where would it be helpful for your employees to know who is available or who is online?
  • Inter-Site Communication – Would an improved process to communicate between sites or locations improve your employee’s experience? A common example of this is a retail location calling another retail location to find out if a particular item is in stock.
  • Mediums Used for Communications – Review the mediums your employees are using for communication and understand what types of tooling would help them perform their roles in a more optimized way. Different mediums can be used for different purposes:
    • Text – Text messages are great for non-real time communication.
    • Audio – Being able to send audio snippets is a good replacement for walkie talkies. Tools like Voxer have popularized sending audio snippets between mobile devices.
    • Real-time Voice – Real-time voice is still a great medium for communicating complex items. Phone calls and VoIP are still predominant mediums between employees.
    • Images – Similar to voice, sending pictures from mobile devices can be used to clearly describe situations.
    • Video – With the advent of front-facing cameras on mobile devices, video has become a great option for communicating very complex topics between employees or even remote support employees.
  • Secure Messaging – Will your employees be relaying confidential (PII or HIPAA) or proprietary information? Having a modern communication tool that is properly secured and can audit these communications can lower your legal exposure.
 

Setting up Comms Tools to Drive Value

There are a few fundamental things you need to be successful at taking advantage of the above items:

  • Structure For Efficiency – If you are implementing a text-based component to your solution, take advantage of canned messages and support type-ahead/recommendations for free form messages.
  • Implement a Hierarchy Matched to your Business – One of the problems with walkie talkies and radios is that everyone has to hear every message. With modern communication tools, you can build a hierarchy that supports who sees and receives messages.
  • Support Message Acknowledge/Read Receipt – Implementing read/acknowledgment functionality reduces anxiety amongst employees and reduces over-communication fatigue.
  • Implement SSO/User Awareness  – If you have multiple employee tools on your mobile devices, build single sign-on into your communication tool.  BlueFletch has built an Enterprise Launcher that uses single sign-on with multiple communication tools (such as Zebra’s WFC). We have found that this SSO process helps prevent employees from “forgetting” to sign onto the communication tools.
  • Consider Archival Usage – If you are archiving messages and communications, you can start to take advantage of modern AI and Machine Learning to run message analytics and build a better understanding of the problems your employees are facing.

Small Savings Make Big Savings

Over time, operational wins like the ones described above add up to save lots of money. For example, in Retail:

  • Additional Customer Facing Time – If you could give each employee in your company an additional 10 minutes back per day to interact with customers it could add up to millions.
  • Improve Processes Like Out of StockBetter cross-store communications around stock lookups across locations could reduce failed sales due to out-of-stocks (a problem currently costing brick and mortar stores $1 trillion dollars).
  • More Efficient BOPIS Experiences – Improved communication around in-store pickup for online orders can allow for a seamless customer experience, the opportunity to cross-sell and save associates from searching for a product.
 

We Would Love Your Feedback

If you have questions on how to get messaging right for your business or enterprise, feel free to reach out to us at Info@BlueFletch.com

Why Rugged Android over iOS

By | Ideas For Your Business

Rugged Android is Not Sexy, but…

As a company, BlueFletch has done a fair amount of development on both Android and iOS and has experience with the pros and cons of each.   Personally, I love Apple mobile devices.  The hardware is always top notch for both phones and computers. But, despite my personal affinity for Apple,  we typically end up advising most clients to go with rugged Android devices after we run device evaluations and pilots for them.

We have done device selection and strategic mobile consulting with a large number of companies across different industries and I can speak to problems we have observed with iOS in enterprise roles. There is a reason that companies like Target, JCPenny, Lowes, and Kohls have all tried IOS and moved away from Apple after a single generation of devices.  Android rugged devices are designed to be used by employees in multiple shift environment over a 3-5 year lifespan…consumer devices are designed to be used for 13-18 months until the next awesome phone is released.

Rugged Android Scanner

Lessons from the Real World

The following are the iOS downsides we have experienced during our projects:

  • Device damage rate  – We have observed clients with a 20%+ monthly repair rate on fleets of iOS devices.  You don’t have to run a costs analysis on employee productivity to know that the hidden costs of the lack of ruggedization are much higher than the savings of buying consumer devices.
  • Battery Cycle – Most modern cell phones are rated between 400-600 charge cycles before the battery begins to have diminishing performance.  At most retailers we work with, we have observed battery degradation within a year.  We prefer devices with replaceable batteries. Additionally, for Android devices, you can typically get heavier duty batteries that will run a longer shift.
  • Inconsistent OS upgrade changes/support – Apple has been known to deprecate certain functionality between OS upgrades with limited input from enterprise users. We had one example where they shut down a set of APIs we were using because in the consumer world developers could use them for malicious purposes. More recently, with iOS 13, there are a number of major changes that are going to break lots of iOS functionality that our clients are using on their enterprise apps.
  • OS Upgrade for hardware – Apple has been known to drop OS upgrade support for older models of phones.  This left some retailers in a spot where they could no longer get support for their MDM (e.g., Airwatch).  Additionally, the OS upgrade process for Apple devices was a bit less controllable than for Android devices. We prefer to have tight control of when OS upgrades are deployed and installed on devices to allow for proper regression testing of LOB applications. I love Zebra’s Lifeguard Program where they provide monthly patches and will provide security patches for up to 5 years of a device’s release. Honeywell has a similar type of process with their Mobility Edge Program.
  • Device Theft – I visited a large retail chain 12-months post iOS device roll-out and was asking an associate about the iOS devices:  The response was that they had had a pretty large amount of them stolen or that had walked off.  I have observed device theft of rugged devices go up, but we have been able to put better software security controls in place on Android devices than on iOS.
  • Device Repair Support – Zebra and Honeywell do a pretty good job with their repair process for devices.  Apple repair and support has gotten better, but I perceive it is designed around consumer repairs (e.g. not focused on the typical enterprise depot experience). If may become problematic if you want OEM parts and repairs for an iOS phone 2-3 years after release.
  • Enterprise APIs and tooling – Zebra, Honeywell, Samsung, and Google all provide tooling for managing devices in the enterprise.  We have a single sign-on solution that allows our clients to customize the Login SSO experience on Android devices (https://bluefletch.com/blog/bluefletch-enterprise-launcher-vs-other-android-launchers/ ).  We are not able to build this type of functionality into kiosk iOS devices.
  • Enterprise Analytics – Apple restricts data that you can get from their iOS (to protect consumer),  we have built products and tooling around Android’s APIs that allow enterprises to get better visibility into their fleets of mobile devices.
  • Employee Familiarity with OS – I had one CIO indicate he felt iOS was the best decision since “everyone uses it.”  I did a walk of their primary Distribution Center and only found 2 employees who had an iPhone (out of the 90 I talked with).  The rest of the people in the DC used Android devices. It is worth reviewing the device demographics of your Store employees to analyze what they are actually familiar with.
  • Developer Build Ecosystem – If you want to use iOS devices, prepare to buy all of your development team Apple computers.  Android development IDE is well supported across all platforms Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Where iOS works the Best in Enterprise

The following are the uses cases where I typically recommend looking at IOS devices for your employees:

  • Replacing devices less than 24mo – If you are fine replacing hardware every 24 months, it reduces the number of concerns identified in the above section.  If you are looking at minimizing costs, Samsung and Nokia devices are what we typically see clients go with.
  • Higher Economic Salaried Employees – Based on our research, we found that iOS users skewed toward higher economic stature.  If you are deploying devices to Doctors or Salespeople, iOS might be a better choice.
  • Specific Apps Designed for the iOS ecosystem – If there are specific Apps designed explicitly for the iOS ecosystem that your employees need (e.g. Stylebook, some photo apps)
  • Tablet Interactions – For employees designers and associates interacting with clients, iPads show better as a platform. We have run POCs with Android and iOS tablets, and salespeople typically preferred the Apple tablets.
  • Single Assigned Carry Device –  If someone is carrying the device as their personal and carry devices,  iOS is a good platform. Examples of this include Pilots and Flight Attendants for Delta Air Lines.

Source: news.delta.com

If you have additional questions or are interested in hearing more about our experiences with different mobile devices in the enterprise you can reach out to us at Info@BlueFletch.com

 

-Brett Cooper

Richard Makerson Selected to Join Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020

By | Ideas For Your Business

ATLANTA – (May 1, 2019) – Leadership Atlanta, one of the oldest sustained community leadership programs in the nation, today announced BlueFletch CEO & Managing Partner, Richard Makerson, will join the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020.

The Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020 program includes 84 established leaders from areas such as education, law, nonprofit, technology, media, healthcare, politics and government and are chosen to participate in a nine-month, executive-level series. Through retreats, full-day seminars, service projects, discussion groups and community tours, members explore critical community issues, examine themselves as leaders and build relationships of trust and mutual understanding.  The year’s class program is created and executed by a dedicated team of hundreds of Leadership Atlanta alumni volunteers, under the direction of the organization’s staff.  Each of these volunteers donates his/her time, experience, and expertise in order to create the best possible experience for class members.

“We are thrilled to welcome our 50th Class,” said Pat Upshaw-Monteith, Leadership Atlanta president and CEO, in a news release. “We are proud to continue Leadership Atlanta’s tradition of bringing together the region’s most influential, engaged, and creative leaders dedicated to working together for the greater good.”

This year’s Leadership Atlanta class consists of 84 individuals selected from more than 400 applicants across a variety of businesses and backgrounds around Atlanta. See the entire 2020 class here.

About BlueFletch
BlueFletch is team of mobile development experts dedicated to helping our enterprise clients solve business problems using mobility. Clients come to us to build mobile solutions when their IT teams lack bandwidth or available skills. Our team of 40+ experienced consultants, all based out of Atlanta, Georgia, help our clients move fast and deliver results for mobility projects that are critical to the business.

About Leadership Atlanta
A group of concerned citizens at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce formed Leadership Atlanta as a formal initiative to address the growing need for a well-informed cadre of committed leaders. The first class was selected in the summer of 1969. It is the mission of Leadership Atlanta to build a better community for everyone in the Atlanta region through education about the key issues facing the region and inspiring members and others to take on and exercise real leadership committed to serving the common good. Since 1969, a diverse group of over 3,000 men and women from metro Atlanta counties has completed this program.

The Intern Experience

By | Ideas For Your Business

Ryan Miles – Android Developer

My summer internship at Bluefletch gave me the opportunity to work on real products and gain firsthand experience in how teams communicate and function. My work focused around Android development for Bluefletch’s Enterprise Mobility Services. I developed a new platform to increase supported devices, built a theming library to allow for instant demos, and researched and prototyped various future features. Each project I worked on came with new challenges that I was able to learn from.

Android for Work Devices    

During my summer, my focus was on developing a new platform to support Android for Work Devices. This platform allowed Bluefletch’s Enterprise Mobility Services to communicate with non-rugged devices if a company already had a supply of Android devices. I was able to get first-hand experience in proper application architecture and using background services. I attended weekly code reviews and received feedback on how to improve the function and style of my code from the senior developers. Toward the end of my project, I started learning how to test and use dependency injection methods like Dagger 2 properly. Learning to test inspired me to practice using other tools such as Espresso and Robolectric along with developing software using Test-Driven Development.

Read More

The Intern Experience – Joshua Hall

By | Ideas For Your Business

Joshua Hall – Marketing

During my work experience at BlueFletch, I was fortunate enough to have experienced first-hand the many different stages of what goes into a marketing project. I learned the general process of how a project is initially planned, developed, and completed and how much work and detail goes into every stage. Another valuable lesson I have learned during these 9 weeks, is that a Marketing Associate is not limited to just one job function. The responsibilities that they have can vary from project to project. This has provided me with more insight into the different types of roles and responsibilities that I could perform in the future.

A Day in the Life

Reflecting back to my first day at BlueFletch, it was one of the most memorable days of my time at work. My first day was a Friday and every Friday a company-wide status update is held to promote unity among the workers.  Everyone stands in a large circle and recites what they worked on during the week and one thing that they learned during the week. When it was my turn to speak I introduced myself and told everyone about a Manhattan real estate trend I had learned about earlier in the week. When I was finished a few other people went until everyone in the circle had finished. I assumed that since everyone in the room had gone we would all promptly return to our desks and get back to work. I was wrong. After we finished up everyone headed to the kitchen where there was a catered breakfast waiting on us. I was very surprised because I wasn’t aware that every Friday breakfast (and sometimes lunch) was brought in for everyone to enjoy. During breakfast that day I began to really get to know my co-workers. They were from a wide range of backgrounds and education levels, but they were all very intelligent and kind. Everyone that I interacted with made me feel welcome and included. The individuals that work here are great. Read More

Ladies Made the Midtown Alliance Member App

By | Ideas For Your Business
In early 2017, an all-female project team from BlueFletch was sent out to make the Midtown Alliance mobile application. There was no specific plan to draft a team of only girls, but as the resources fell, so female the team was. I (Kira) did business analysis and project management, Nicole made a delightful design, Alli cranked out the React Native iOS and Android apps, and Wanita QA-ed the finished product until it hurt.
Midtown Alliance, WIT, Women in Tech
Midtown Alliance, WIT, Women in Tech
Midtown Alliance, mobile app dev, women in tech
Midtown Alliance, Women in Tech, WIT

The Midtown Alliance Member App allows MA members who live or work in Midtown to redeem deals at neighborhood businesses.

While there is nothing remarkable about any one of us doing the particular job that we were assigned to do, statistically, it was improbable that we would find ourselves as a group of all girls (At BlueFletch, there is currently a 3.13% chance that a random four-person project team would be all-female). The composition of our team was unique enough to be noticed and positively reflected on by our client, Midtown Alliance.
So what does a lady tech team look like?

Read More

The Apple Car: What We Know(ingly) Assume

By | Ideas For Your Business

While Apple hasn’t officially confirmed the existence of a research and development project for an automobile, I’ve heard a lot of rumors and rumblings out of Cupertino. To be dubbed the “Apple Car”, it in fact has more in common with the iPhone than a traditional car.

First, Apple Car’s body will be fully made of Gorilla glass and will withstand 80% of collisions at 5.9 mph or less. The increased weight and fragility over traditional steel cars is completely ignored to prioritize aesthetics. Sure, the body looks great and will resist finger prints, but are you be brave enough to drive without additional protection or a cover?

AppleIn an effort to reduce the number of physical buttons on board, the gas and brake pedals will be replaced with capacitive sensors. This will allow infinitely variable throttle and braking, as long as you are barefoot. All other buttons and toggles will be controlled by shouting commands at Siri. Charging the Car battery at existing public charging stations will require an additional adapter to interface between the plug and the Car. This included $9 adapter allows Car to be backwards compatible while also putting pressure on charging stations to adopt proprietary technology.

Innovation isn’t always easy to swallow!

AppleAll this technology was developed to provide the purest driving experience ever created. The interface simplifies driving so much that even a child can hop in Car and intuitively take off down the road.

AppleAnd for the first time ever, Siri can pilot you to a destination using Apple Maps’ default, convoluted routing. We’re keeping fingers crossed that support for Google Maps will be available on release day. Should you prefer hands-on manual steering then simply swipe left and right on the steering wheel. No moving parts = nothing to break!

Apple, siriPre-orders for Car are set to begin Early 2018, and will ship in 5-6 years. The base model will start in the low $100,000s while the Plus model is much too expensive for anyone reading this.

As for the range, Car will come off the lot capable of travelling 400 miles on a single charge. Initial testing of the battery has shown that range will decrease with regular use within the first year. Apple is also struggling with battery life after upgrades to Car’s firmware. Each major software release is said to greatly impact performance and battery life on all prior year models.

Disclaimer: All this intel was obtained when an engineer from Apple left his prototype Car at a bar after a night of drinking. He chose to take an Uber home rather than trust Siri auto-pilot.

Company Culture in View and in Practice

By | Ideas For Your Business

At BlueFletch, we’re proud of our company culture. We’re inclusive, we encourage collaboration and, most importantly, have a great time. Whether lending a hand in the community or staying late and playing board games – we like to spend time together and fun is of the upmost importance! Here are just a few of the recent activities we’ve enjoyed together this month –

March Madness

BlueFletch employees, clients and special guests let loose for an afternoon of hoops & games at our headquarters located on North Avenue. The March Madness event had three rooms with a total of five tv’s airing the basketball games simultaneously.

The madness continued with a variety of food. The buffet had a total of 23 pizzas, 150 wings, & a large salad from Mellow Mushroom. Unfortunately, several people were left in food coma for the rest of the evening.

Some St. Patrick’s Day party favors, mustache stickers & Irish pins made for a colorful Friday full of celebration as well.

Squares became a competitive topic & stakes were high during the games. Two Square games reached a pot total of over 100 dollars. Micheal Milord walked away with a cup full of bills, only to bet more. While Gino Emanuel came in with a big win at the end of the night.

Jim Wilson remains in first place with his “Roundball Bracket.” But with two weeks of March Madness remaining, it is hard to predict who will score the win  the bracket.

march madness

march madness

 

Bowl Baby Bowl

All smiles at BlueFletch’s quarterly team outing at Midtown Bowl!

BlueFletcher’s were competitive with their fellow colleagues for a night of food, brews, & laughs. No rookies were spotted on the lanes.

David Newman bowling with his signature curve ball for a night of success. Jim Wilson was knocking down pin for pin, leaving the bowling alley with a high score. But Nicole Gatlin picked up on Wilson’s spin technique early in the game, giving him a run for his money. Rick Makerson finished the night bowling a turkey.

Fletcher’s also took on Midtown’s famous appetizer, “The Big Nasty” a
concoction of french fries, tater tots & homemade potato chips topped with chili, cheese & jalapeño poppers. No word on how it affected our bowling skills.

DSC00908DSC00902

 

Working in Tech with an Art History Degree

By | Ideas For Your Business

Never in a million years did I think I would be working in tech. I saw myself as the antithesis of technology– devoting my education and early career to preserving the art and art-making techniques of the past. However, through a series of seemingly random events and a lot of hard work I find myself a User Experience and Interface Designer at a mobile development and consulting company. Six months in and loving it, I’m taking inventory of how I got here and what I’ve learned so far.

My first job out of school was working for one of the foremost book-binding supply shops in the nation (you probably didn’t even know that was a thing, did you?) Eventually I landed my first “big girl job” in Museum Education, feeling like I had “arrived.”  Have you ever heard of that woman who became a curator with just a Bachelor’s degree? You haven’t? Duh, because I made her up. Without an advanced degree or a desire to pursue one, I quickly realized I was stuck. Thankfully, I had been cultivating design and letterpress printing skills on the side and decided to dive headfirst into the freelance life, working as a wedding stationery designer. Three years, approximately five bridezillas and few dozen invitation suites later I was struggling to stay inspired. I had learned so much about myself and about running a business, but it was now time for a new adventure.

enterprise mobile app devThis is where my foray into tech began. Mostly out of curiosity, I began to take classes in User Experience, Sketch, basic web design, wireframing, and designing for the screen. I was hooked. I watched hundreds of YouTube videos on how to mask this or animate that, scanning forums for answers and googling like it was my job. I dogeared outdated books about “mobile first” and read articles about fighting for the user — anything I could get my hands on. Then, one wonderful summer day, I interviewed for a design position at BlueFletch and the rest is history.

At my new job I had to learn to swim by being thrown into the deep end. During the first couple of months I would make daily lists of all of the words and acronyms that I hadn’t understood that day to look up later, in secret. It took some time, but to my relief and surprise I didn’t drown. I began picking up more jargon everyday, building my understanding of this brave new world, piece by piece. This is the ever-progressing land of Marshmallow, Kit Kat, Lollipop, and Jelly Bean, of cookies, toasts, breadcrumbs, chips, wizards, trolls, portals, clouds, easter eggs, and bugs — it’s quite the place.

The constraints inherent to designing and developing apps drive creativity with a speed and ferocity that I have never before encountered. This kind of work has redefined my understanding of what it truly means to be creative. It is narrow-minded to suggest that creativity only courses through the veins of musicians, painters and photographers. Being creative is the posture of approaching a problem and endeavoring to solve it in a beautiful way, a goal shared by the right and left-brained alike.

The tech industry isn’t for everyone. If you are looking for a career to coast you into retirement, it’s probably not for you. The techsphere and the people who inhabit it will advance and swallow you up as they pass, leaving you and your skillset irrelevant. The tech industry is however, for the forever-learners, the self taught and the classically trained. It is for the computer scientists and the engineers and also for the lawyers, actors, musicians, teachers, and artists. It is for the people who planned on being here all along and the people who arrived here by happy accident. This industry is a melting pot of talent, enriched by the diverse collage of backgrounds brought to the table. Here my non-tech past experience isn’t a handicap, it’s an asset.