3 Approaches to Consider Before Building a Mobile App

By Andrew Sosa, Creative Director at Squareball Studios.

Mobile apps used to be the new thing. Now they’re like underwear — almost everyone has a drawer full.

Statista has been tracking the proliferation of apps in the Apple Store. As of January 2017, there were 2.2 million apps just waiting to be downloaded to your mobile phone. Perhaps “waiting” isn’t the right word — most of these apps aren’t sitting still. According to Smart Insights, 90 percent of the considerable time Americans spend on their cell phones is spent actively using apps. As the creative director of a mobile app design and development firm, I often see people building applications incorrectly by simply looking to cover the needed basic assessments. You shouldn’t jump into getting an app developed without the proper feedback regarding overhead costs.

The good news is that we’ve learned a lot from rolling out all these software options over the years. The bad news is there’s so much competition now, you better not miss a beat — or your app might flounder. So, what should a prospective developer or entrepreneur consider before building and marketing a new app?

The first step in app development is, of course, having the idea. But how do you know if the idea will hold water in an already saturated marketplace? We suggest to our clients that all budding app developers go through a product validation exercise before the build. With that said, we suggest a multi-step planning approach that will take time on the backend but ultimately save time (and money) on the front end.

Identify the demand for the app. 

Google Keyword Planner can help you determine the volume of people who are searching for what you’re trying to sell. You will also be able to see the competition for your targeted product keywords, which will indicate “hotness” (or not-ness) in the market.

Shopify blog contributor Richard Lazazzera suggests using Google Trends to search for a more global portrait of how your product may do long term. At my company, we have standard market validation and business analysis procedures that entail interviewing/job shadowing along with testing several use cases via a prototype to the parties involved.

Identify competitors. 

Starting with a simple Google search, look for direct competitors as well as crossover competition that uses some of the relevant features of your app. SimilarWeb can help you deep dive competitor details like website traffic, organic and paid keywords and social referrals. How long have these competitors been in business and what kind of social media following do they have? All of this data will tell you something about your potential app.

Wireframe it. 

Map the features, flow and user experience of the app. How will users navigate it? How will you track downloads or other analytics on the back end? This mapping process will help you eliminate extraneous functions that will bog down the app. Our team gathers the needed data to create a solution that caters to all parties involved in using the final product to avoid any unforeseen gaps in the future. Remember, if your initial offering is successful, there will be version upgrades. Going to market with a lean and mean version will also save you money.

Product validation is a necessary first step on the road to app development. If you’ve completed these or other product validation steps, you’re one step closer to knocking it out of the app park. Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of a process that stretches across research, pre-testing, go-live, feedback and new feature introduction.

Andrew Sosa is Creative Director at Squareball Studios, a leading Dallas based mobile app design & development firm for startups and large enterprises.

Economic abuse destroys lives – it must be taken seriously | Louise Tickle

Elizabeth and her children have been reduced to poverty by her ex. The law must treat such cases like domestic violence

Elizabeth doesn’t dare tell social services, but there have been nights when she and her three kids couldn’t eat. “No heating, no gas. We’ve lived like paupers,” she told me. “He doesn’t pay any maintenance even though legally he’s meant to, so sometimes I can’t pay my nursery bill. That means that even though I’ve left him, my job’s at risk – I can’t take a child into work.”

Her ex-partner has also sent emails to letting agents impugning her ability to afford the rent, meaning she’s had to stump up six months in advance to keep hold of a tenancy. Elizabeth (not her real name) didn’t have that money – she’s had to borrow from friends. Despite paying her rent on time, subsequent damning emails from her ex to letting agents have, she believes, led to her and the children being evicted twice.

Continue reading…

My Boss Told Me To Quit or Be Fired

Editor’s note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues — everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Here’s a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.

1. My boss told me to quit or be fired

For the last six months, I’ve essentially been on “probation” with my supervisor, determining if this manager role is a good fit for me. His conclusion is that I do not possess the skills necessary for this role. Instead of terminating my employment, they offered me another position – a demotion to a role that I was supervising. They stated they do not want to lose me. Even though I do not yet have another job lined up, I have decided to turn down this role. I do not feel it would be a good move for my career, nor for this team. When I turned down this offer, I had the option to resign or to be terminated. I chose to resign.

Given the situation, what should I tell my team and colleagues? I’m not leaving by my own choice – even though technically, I am the one who has chosen to resign because I did not want the other options. I don’t want to leave on bad terms or badmouth my boss, as I know that can haunt you later! But how can I be honest about the situation without tarnishing my reputation or my boss’s?

Often in this situation, people work with their manager on messaging that lets them save face a bit — so that you’re not stuck saying “they wanted to demote me” and they’re not saying “we asked her to leave.” One option people often use is a simple statement that they realized (either on their own, or mutually with the employer) that the role wasn’t the right fit. Some people will assume there’s more to the story, but it’s a good, basic line to use when you don’t want to get into details.

So, it might sound like this: “I appreciated the opportunity to work with all of you, but ultimately didn’t feel it was the right fit for me.” Or, “I realized that ultimately I’m looking for a role with more ___.”

2. We accidentally left our new employee behind when we went to a staff lunch

We have quarterly staff lunches, but due to our size and our work, we have to split the lunch into two groups. My new employee, who started a few weeks ago, was put into the second group. While the staff left, my colleague went to the bathroom and in the rush of getting taxis, etc., she was left behind. My employee is furious.

I am her direct supervisor but was not part of the planning committee. What can I do, as I don’t think this was intentional? I am also new to this organization and I feel terrible. Our manger only said, “Why didn’t she just get her own taxi to join?” I am not sure this an appropriate response and would like to tell people to just apologize to her. But everyone is taking the lead of the manager and no one has said anything to her.

While that was an oversight that shouldn’t have happened, she’s furious? That’s a bit of an overreaction. I agree that she should have just gotten a taxi herself, but even if she didn’t think to do that (or for some reason thought it wasn’t an option), fury isn’t really warranted here. I would tell her that you’re very sorry that this happened, that it was obviously not intentional, and that you assume that in the rush to get into taxis, each group assumed she was with the other. Maybe add that you’d like to take her out to lunch (or take her and rest of your team, if it’s a small one) to make up for it. And you can also make a point of showing her that she’s valued in other ways, and go out of your way to include her in group discussions and anything else that comes up. But this shouldn’t require a major to-do beyond that — so if she stays furious, I’d look into what else might be going on.

3. Should I recommend a former coworker for a job if I liked her work but others complained about her?

At my last job, I was treated pretty badly and I quit. A colleague of mine who still works there has also been struggling there lately and wants to quit. When the company I just got hired at asked if I knew anyone who specialized in finance, I thought of my colleague right away, but didn’t say anything. I want to help her out, but I haven’t even started the job yet. Also, although I have always got along great with her, others have complained about her being fussy. I want to protect myself at this new job (I had been out of work for months), but I feel bad for not passing along this opportunity to her. What are your thoughts?

If you can genuinely vouch for her work and think she’s good, recommend her. They explicitly asked you for recommendations, after all. But if you have reservations about her work or style, then yeah, you don’t want to stake your reputation on someone you have qualms about. One middle ground is to give them the full story on her — good and potentially not as good. (For instance: “She’s amazing at X and Y and I’ve always found her easy to get along with, but I know that some people found her overly process-oriented.”)

4. Explaining what I’ve been doing since getting laid off

I recently had a phone screening, which I thought went well, but I got the expected question of “What have you been doing in the meantime since your position ended five months ago?” My answer: I’ve used various software on my own machine to maintain my skills, attended various conferences recently to maintain awareness about the industry. I also mentioned how I have been aggressively applying for jobs (with several interviews, albeit no offers). I also mentioned how I’m about to begin my seasonal work, which I’ve had for several years.

I understand why managers ask that, and am fine with that, but was what I said fine? I tried to be as honest as I could in the question.

I’d leave out the part of aggressively job searching in the future. Interviewers who ask this question are looking for answers like volunteering, taking a class, learning a new skill, working in your community — something that’s going to make you a more valuable employee when you return to work. Also, rightly or wrongly, talking about an aggressive job search risks coming across as a little desperate and like you might take any job, rather than specifically being interested in this one. (If it helps, imagine a date telling you that she’s been aggressively looking for a relationship; it would be a turn-off for similar reasons, even though I realize the context isn’t a perfect parallel.)

5. Can I ask why it took so long to be contacted for an interview?

I applied for a job four months ago and was just contacted for an interview. During the interview, it it appropriate to ask why it took so long (in a polite way, of course)?

Sure. But you need to sound like you’re asking to better understand the role and its context in their organization, not like you’re just annoyed that you had to wait so long. I’d say it this way: “I noticed the job has been open since November, or at least that’s when I applied. Can I ask what’s been going on with the role since then?”

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

Tech and the Reluctant Employee: What Companies Can Do

By Gabby Menachem, CEO of Loom Systems.

Factories are humming. Unemployment is near historic lows. The stock market has been setting all kinds of records. While many people are happy about this, there are still some employers who are not, which holds them back from expanding and moving forward. A lack of skilled workers, known in popular parlance as the “skilled workers gap,” is making some employers desperate. I know from my own experience that finding the right people with the correct skill sets for particular jobs can sometimes be a Herculean task. One of the main things I attribute this to is the speed at which technology is evolving.

It’s going at such a pace that as soon as workers learn new skills based on new technologies, something more advanced comes along. A good example involves the computers used by NASA to launch its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in 2014, testing the spaceship that may eventually bring humans to Mars. Even as it was launched, the Orion was already outmoded. The simple 2014 smartphone was at that time more powerful than the computer that ran the Orion. Talk about a skills gap! What happened to Orion goes on every day in the corporate world.

Organizations need to help its workers bridge that gap — not for the workers’ sake (although many organizations don’t mind helping their people out) but for the organization’s own sake. If it doesn’t have enough tech-savvy workers, it won’t get its work done. It’s a matter of survival. To get workers on board, we have to first define what “on board” means.

Create a plan to present to your employees in an organized manner. Be on top of staff, ensuring they are working with new systems as they arise. Devise new metrics and benchmarks that will measure how workers are engaging with systems, like requiring workers to use Excel instead of a calculator. The results may be similar, but the process is important for record-keeping, file exports, etc.

When trying to get workers to do something they are not used to, your first instinct might be to use the “stick” approach. But a “carrot” approach in the form of gamification might be better. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) systems lend themselves to this strategy, as device-based games/contests can take advantage of AI modules. Quizzes that pose questions about company activities (such as: how many gigabytes pass through our servers every day?) require AI applications to answer.

Even among workers who are on board, there is an adjustment period. Many workers, as well as managers, see new technology as another component in the organization’s toolbox. They don’t realize that it is an overall new way of doing things. Stress in seminars and company material that in many cases, you are not simply talking about a new tool. Present a playbook or other guide (as opposed to a manual) with a vision of the technology in the work environment and what it can do, what you want it to be able to do and how you are going to use its tools to get there. This will go a long way in not only getting workers to accept the new ways of doing things but to embrace them, as they will want to be part of the vision.

Even when the vision is there, guidance is necessary to ensure that workers and the organization are getting the most out of new systems. For that, there should be a tech ombudsman — someone who knows the system well and who can advocate/supervise its implementation. The individual in question may be dedicated to the task or have another job title, but they should be seen as the go-to person in an organization to get answers, share concerns, make complaints, etc. It is not a supervisory position necessarily, but more of an information sharing/management position, in which the leader is the liaison between workers, management and the technology.

While all this seems like a great deal of work, it’s worth the effort. A system like this that brings workers on board can eliminate a lot of ugly and uncomfortable scenarios and contribute to the bottom line. New technology can be a great boon — but it can also be a great waste of money. Our objective is to ensure that it turns out to be the former, not the latter.

Gabby Menachem is the CEO of Loom Systems, bringing with him 15 years of technology innovation and entrepreneur experience.

Tech and the Reluctant Employee: What Companies Can Do

By Gabby Menachem, CEO of Loom Systems.

Factories are humming. Unemployment is near historic lows. The stock market has been setting all kinds of records. While many people are happy about this, there are still some employers who are not, which holds them back from expanding and moving forward. A lack of skilled workers, known in popular parlance as the “skilled workers gap,” is making some employers desperate. I know from my own experience that finding the right people with the correct skill sets for particular jobs can sometimes be a Herculean task. One of the main things I attribute this to is the speed at which technology is evolving.

It’s going at such a pace that as soon as workers learn new skills based on new technologies, something more advanced comes along. A good example involves the computers used by NASA to launch its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle in 2014, testing the spaceship that may eventually bring humans to Mars. Even as it was launched, the Orion was already outmoded. The simple 2014 smartphone was at that time more powerful than the computer that ran the Orion. Talk about a skills gap! What happened to Orion goes on every day in the corporate world.

Organizations need to help its workers bridge that gap — not for the workers’ sake (although many organizations don’t mind helping their people out) but for the organization’s own sake. If it doesn’t have enough tech-savvy workers, it won’t get its work done. It’s a matter of survival. To get workers on board, we have to first define what “on board” means.

Create a plan to present to your employees in an organized manner. Be on top of staff, ensuring they are working with new systems as they arise. Devise new metrics and benchmarks that will measure how workers are engaging with systems, like requiring workers to use Excel instead of a calculator. The results may be similar, but the process is important for record-keeping, file exports, etc.

When trying to get workers to do something they are not used to, your first instinct might be to use the “stick” approach. But a “carrot” approach in the form of gamification might be better. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) systems lend themselves to this strategy, as device-based games/contests can take advantage of AI modules. Quizzes that pose questions about company activities (such as: how many gigabytes pass through our servers every day?) require AI applications to answer.

Even among workers who are on board, there is an adjustment period. Many workers, as well as managers, see new technology as another component in the organization’s toolbox. They don’t realize that it is an overall new way of doing things. Stress in seminars and company material that in many cases, you are not simply talking about a new tool. Present a playbook or other guide (as opposed to a manual) with a vision of the technology in the work environment and what it can do, what you want it to be able to do and how you are going to use its tools to get there. This will go a long way in not only getting workers to accept the new ways of doing things but to embrace them, as they will want to be part of the vision.

Even when the vision is there, guidance is necessary to ensure that workers and the organization are getting the most out of new systems. For that, there should be a tech ombudsman — someone who knows the system well and who can advocate/supervise its implementation. The individual in question may be dedicated to the task or have another job title, but they should be seen as the go-to person in an organization to get answers, share concerns, make complaints, etc. It is not a supervisory position necessarily, but more of an information sharing/management position, in which the leader is the liaison between workers, management and the technology.

While all this seems like a great deal of work, it’s worth the effort. A system like this that brings workers on board can eliminate a lot of ugly and uncomfortable scenarios and contribute to the bottom line. New technology can be a great boon — but it can also be a great waste of money. Our objective is to ensure that it turns out to be the former, not the latter.

Gabby Menachem is the CEO of Loom Systems, bringing with him 15 years of technology innovation and entrepreneur experience.

MeToo Has Men Scared, But Women Are Still Suffering

After #MeToo and the storm of sexual harassment allegations, many male leaders worry they’ll land in a compromising position. While this hyper-awareness helps prevent sexual harassment, it also hurts women professionally.

In January, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey surveyed almost 3,000 employed adults. They found that almost half of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing, or working alone with women.

As a woman, that disheartens me. Such fear closes women off from valuable learning and career opportunities, including one I’ve seen increasing in popularity: sponsorship.

Unlike mentoring — which focuses on merely advising young professionals — sponsors actively speak up for a young person to help their career progress. Having a male sponsor means a woman has access to opportunities traditionally only open to men.

Instead of shying away from these relationships, male leaders should step up to the plate.

1. Understand your own reputation.

One of the biggest benefits of having a sponsor is access to their social capital. Having built a strong network, when you speak up for a female professional, people listen to what you have to say.

For example,Kerrie MacPherson is now a senior advisory partner in New York for the accounting and professional services firm EY. Early in her career, she had a male sponsor who was known to be a hard marker. When he spoke to others about her skills and successes, they knew she was the real deal.

“It’s important, to understand that mentors talk with you, whereas sponsors talk about you and use their personal reputations to advocate on your behalf,” MacPherson said.

When you find a woman to sponsor, consider what you bring to the table. Do others value your opinion because of your honesty, your creativity, your experience, etc.? Knowing your own strengths will help you better position your sponsee.

For example, if you’ve spent most of your career in marketing, talking about the woman’s own marketing skills will hold more weight than talking about her customer service experience.

2. Formalize expectations.

In a mentorship, it’s up to the mentee to act on advice or not. A sponsorship needs to be more structured. Both parties need to establish a goal to work toward.

Choo Kim-Isgitt was hired as the chief marketing officer of the San Diego-based email and web security company EdgeWave. But in a short period of time, the CEO and chairman, Lou Ryan, saw she brought more to the table.

“He has involved me in various strategic decisions in the organization, from product development to business development, working closely with the COO,” Kim-Isgitt said. “As a result, my role has evolved into a more product-focused role, driving product roadmap development and overall product strategy.”

It’s not enough to identify her talent, you also need to align her potential with her ambitions. Find out where she’d like to be a year, five years, and 10 years down the road. Discuss connections you have who can help. Then form a plan covering what both you and she will do to help her reach her goals.

3. Walk out of the spotlight.

Over the years,Darin Reffitt, the vice president of marketing at Calgary-based customer experience platform SPLICE Software, has sponsored several women. He’s learned the key to success is entering the relationship selflessly.

“Mentoring is pretty much in the job description for being a good manager,” he said.

By guiding the people on your team, you contribute to your own success. But being a sponsor means backing an employee solely for her triumph.

Always give your sponsee credit for her great ideas and hard work. Praise her to other leaders and recommend her for opportunities you hear about through your network. This might take her away from your team, but that doesn’t matter. The primary focus is her professional success.

4. Truly understand the gender barriers.

The willingness to help a woman succeed professional does not mean a man is unbiased. Most men are unaware how much their gender has aided in their success. By sponsoring women, you’ll get a better look at the obstacles women really face.

“I’ve heard from a number of male sponsors that they were shocked at what women have to navigate, tolerate and overcome,” saidAudrey J. Murrell, the Pittsburgh-based co-editor of Mentoring Diverse Leaders. “Many times their response is ‘I had no idea.'”

Take this new information and examine your own organization. Become an ally for not only the woman you sponsor, but also all working women. Meet with female professionals and ask for their input on making your workplace more equal. You might be surprised what gender-based challenges are right under your nose.

MeToo Has Men Scared, But Women Are Still Suffering

After #MeToo and the storm of sexual harassment allegations, many male leaders worry they’ll land in a compromising position. While this hyper-awareness helps prevent sexual harassment, it also hurts women professionally.

In January, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey surveyed almost 3,000 employed adults. They found that almost half of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing, or working alone with women.

As a woman, that disheartens me. Such fear closes women off from valuable learning and career opportunities, including one I’ve seen increasing in popularity: sponsorship.

Unlike mentoring — which focuses on merely advising young professionals — sponsors actively speak up for a young person to help their career progress. Having a male sponsor means a woman has access to opportunities traditionally only open to men.

Instead of shying away from these relationships, male leaders should step up to the plate.

1. Understand your own reputation.

One of the biggest benefits of having a sponsor is access to their social capital. Having built a strong network, when you speak up for a female professional, people listen to what you have to say.

For example,Kerrie MacPherson is now a senior advisory partner in New York for the accounting and professional services firm EY. Early in her career, she had a male sponsor who was known to be a hard marker. When he spoke to others about her skills and successes, they knew she was the real deal.

“It’s important, to understand that mentors talk with you, whereas sponsors talk about you and use their personal reputations to advocate on your behalf,” MacPherson said.

When you find a woman to sponsor, consider what you bring to the table. Do others value your opinion because of your honesty, your creativity, your experience, etc.? Knowing your own strengths will help you better position your sponsee.

For example, if you’ve spent most of your career in marketing, talking about the woman’s own marketing skills will hold more weight than talking about her customer service experience.

2. Formalize expectations.

In a mentorship, it’s up to the mentee to act on advice or not. A sponsorship needs to be more structured. Both parties need to establish a goal to work toward.

Choo Kim-Isgitt was hired as the chief marketing officer of the San Diego-based email and web security company EdgeWave. But in a short period of time, the CEO and chairman, Lou Ryan, saw she brought more to the table.

“He has involved me in various strategic decisions in the organization, from product development to business development, working closely with the COO,” Kim-Isgitt said. “As a result, my role has evolved into a more product-focused role, driving product roadmap development and overall product strategy.”

It’s not enough to identify her talent, you also need to align her potential with her ambitions. Find out where she’d like to be a year, five years, and 10 years down the road. Discuss connections you have who can help. Then form a plan covering what both you and she will do to help her reach her goals.

3. Walk out of the spotlight.

Over the years,Darin Reffitt, the vice president of marketing at Calgary-based customer experience platform SPLICE Software, has sponsored several women. He’s learned the key to success is entering the relationship selflessly.

“Mentoring is pretty much in the job description for being a good manager,” he said.

By guiding the people on your team, you contribute to your own success. But being a sponsor means backing an employee solely for her triumph.

Always give your sponsee credit for her great ideas and hard work. Praise her to other leaders and recommend her for opportunities you hear about through your network. This might take her away from your team, but that doesn’t matter. The primary focus is her professional success.

4. Truly understand the gender barriers.

The willingness to help a woman succeed professional does not mean a man is unbiased. Most men are unaware how much their gender has aided in their success. By sponsoring women, you’ll get a better look at the obstacles women really face.

“I’ve heard from a number of male sponsors that they were shocked at what women have to navigate, tolerate and overcome,” saidAudrey J. Murrell, the Pittsburgh-based co-editor of Mentoring Diverse Leaders. “Many times their response is ‘I had no idea.'”

Take this new information and examine your own organization. Become an ally for not only the woman you sponsor, but also all working women. Meet with female professionals and ask for their input on making your workplace more equal. You might be surprised what gender-based challenges are right under your nose.