apps i keep using
August 24, 2018

Apps I keep using, a leader’s view on 3 standing the test of time

By Paul Laughlin

More apps in this post, continuing our theme with a different leader’s “apps I keep using“.

Whether researching cars or holiday locations, it’s always useful to hear from experienced users. Once the lure of the ‘sexy demo‘ has worn off, how well does the item live up to its promise.

So, as part of our new series focussing on apps that leaders find useful, I’m pleased to welcome back guest blogger Tony Boobier. In response to my challenge, he has come back with 3 apps that he has kept using. I hope you find Tony’s considered opinion useful…

Apps I keep using: Most will fail you

When asked what was my favourite ‘app’, my initial reaction was that it would be an easy exercise to write about. After all, I’ve been using ‘Apps’ in one form or another for a decade, maybe longer. But curiously, I found the task harder than I expected. Let me explain why.

‘Apps’ is the shorthand form for ‘Applications’. In fact any form of computer programme, but especially relate to those which are downloaded onto mobile devices. They cover games, news, weather and social networks.

In business, they tend to relate to issues of productivity, risk management, and customer insight. Over the course of my career, I’ve been both customer and trialist, and also mentor to App startups.

But creating a new App is a tough, tough business. The indications are that most new Apps fail to get above the so-called ‘poverty line’ of $500 revenue per month. Perhaps it’s no real surprise that some of the Apps that I used earlier in my career just don’t exist any longer. Frankly, they probably just didn’t deserve to.

A 2014 survey categorised App developers into four key categories:

  • “have-nothings”
  • “poverty-stricken”
  • “strugglers”
  • “haves”

Although the ‘haves’ have the potential to make mega bucks, with the top 1.6% making in excess of $500k revenue per month. Seems like most of the start-ups I’ve met fall into the first three categories. But it wasn’t my fault (I hope), just flakey tech-driven ideas with little relevance to business need.

The Majority Of Today’s App Businesses Are Not Sustainable

Though the app stores continue to fill up with ever more mobile applications, the reality is that most of these are not sustainable businesses. According to a new report out this morning, half (50%) of iOS developers and even more (64%) Android developers are operating below the “app poverty line” …

We’re all constantly encouraged to find the most effective Apps and to think about using them. As if they offer some form of magic potion to improve the way we work. For me, it runs the risk of being a time-waster.

Learning new processes, new passwords, encouraging others to unwillingly adopt them. Often this is only to find out that these new approaches don’t live up to their promise. They aren’t capable of upgrading to match my Android or Mac, or the password won’t work any longer. Give me a break ! I have more important stuff to look after, than ‘playing’ with new tech which might be ‘here today, gone tomorrow’.

So I’ve chosen to focus on 3 Apps that I still use on a regular basis.

Apps I keep using: LinkedIn

The first is the ubiquitous LinkedIn. Don’t yawn, I know it’s been around for a while now, and now is owned by Microsoft (did you know that?). I had the very great pleasure of visiting their London offices last month, which had a vibrancy and energy that I haven’t seen in many organisations.

Personally I use LinkedIn not only as a way of keeping in contact. Rather, for finding out about existing or prospective customers. Plus, for great research sources such as their own investor presentations.

What individuals have done in the past is often a useful indicator of what they might do in the future. It helps me with my operational tactics.

But it’s a two-way-street. You seldom get something for nothing. I was especially interested in how Linkedin use anonymised data (in effect, mine and probably yours). They use it to support companies in their operational strategies. Especially to understand available resources.

But don’t feel maligned by this use of info. In reality it’s no different to that used by coffee houses or supermarkets. Aren’t we increasingly signing away our rights (within the constraints of GDPR) in the T’s and C’s of these sites?

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Apps I keep using: XMind

There are a number of mind-map type applications. I really like the concept and approach of mind-mapping. I was taught the mind-mapping approach nearly four decades ago. It was as part of a way of being able to structure a last-minute presentation, or meeting, and it’s served me well ever since.

But sometimes, I just don’t have the time to engage with the App, when a pen and paper will need to do. You have a meeting in less than an hour, what are you going to say? Quick mind-map on the plane, or in the taxi, will mean that you don’t arrive at the meeting with nothing to say.

More often, we have more time than an hour. It’s a sort of paradox that some Apps are better when you have more time to use them. XMind is perhaps the most popular mobile app for this purpose.

Modern mind mapping Apps allow a higher level of collaborative thinking and contribution. To use as part of the team management approach. In some ways it aligns to the whole concept of changes in leadership style. This is a moving away from the flag-carrying ‘follow-me’ way of thinking. Towards a more team-orientated ethos. With ‘leadership’ moving between the team, from individual to individual, depending on the issues.

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Apps I keep using: ARCgis

My third choice is in the GIS space. I love ‘location’. Everything and everyone is somewhere. There are many good GIS (Geographic Information Systems) apps to choose from. Many years ago I spent time with MapInfo. Discovering that mapping wasn’t about colouring-in maps of the world, but rather was one of the keys to unlocking insight. For me, it was a step-change. Maps are a wonderful visualisation of data, in a way that we can cope with better than tables or charts.

My favourite in this space is ARCgis which is the ‘ESRI’ offering. ESRI are also known as ‘Environmental Systems Research Institute’. They have been around since 1969 (which I guess passes the test of sustainability). I was delighted that the founder Jack Dangermond endorsed my recent book on insurance analytics.

I’m a longstanding fan of ESRI, especially for the industry-specific approach to ‘location’ that they try to adopt. It’s really interesting that GIS companies have increasingly tried to acquire or develop analytical skills. Because at the same time analytic companies are increasingly acquiring GIS capabilities. It’s a great example of two different capabilities converging.

ArcGIS Apps

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Apps I keep using: Which still work for you?

Thanks to Tony for another interesting guest post. I can absolutely see the benefit in sharing apps that have stood the test of time.

What about you? Which apps have lasted longest on your smartphone or tablet? Which ones could you not do without as a leader?

You are always welcome to share in the comment box below, or via social media. I hope our recent focus on which apps help, rather than just distract us, will help us all be more productive.