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How to Design a Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity Strategy – ReadWrite

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How to Design a Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity Strategy - ReadWrite


Technology has been advancing at a dizzying speed in the last decade. Here is how to design a foolproof IoT cybersecurity strategy.

One area that has been growing fast is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT simply means a network of connected hardware devices that can communicate via an internet connection. The IoT network simplifies many processes and tasks by reducing human participation.

The Rise of IoT in Enterprise

While IoT has been a common concept in homes, enterprise use is only beginning to rise.  And with that comes the need for improved IoT cybersecurity.

McKinsey’s report shows that the adoption of IoT technology on an enterprise level has increased from 13% in 2014 to 25% in 2019. The same report forecasts that the number of connected devices is expected to shoot to 43 billion by 2023. That’s three times the number of connected devices there were connected in 2018.

It’s inevitable. IoT is becoming a prominent ingredient in enterprise operations. But there’s a caveat that comes with the rise of IoT — increased cybersecurity risks.

And that’s why you must design a foolproof IoT cybersecurity strategy.  

The Challenges of IoT Cybersecurity

IoT cybersecurity is a nightmare for most CISOs and CIOs. Unlike traditional IT cybersecurity, which is straightforward (more or less), securing an IoT environment is fraught with many challenges.

One of the biggest problems with IoT is that each device comes with its own software and firmware. In most cases, updating these is difficult. And as you know, software updates are a part of maintaining good cybersecurity hygiene. This poses a massive problem with IoT as every new line of code or functionality added could introduce new attack vectors. And conducting and monitoring updates at scale is next to impossible.

Another challenge is that most IoT devices don’t support third-party endpoint security solutions. One reason for this is regulations surrounding the devices (like FDA regulations for medical devices). As a result, enterprises end up focusing their security on the communication channels between devices and networks.

On an enterprise level, the number of connected devices is just too massive to keep track of. You can end up wasting valuable time and resources playing cat and mouse just to keep all your devices updated. That on its own can leave you open to attacks from other directions.

The Need for Enterprise Level IoT Cybersecurity Solutions

The need for innovation and efficiency are driving the growth of IoT adoption at an enterprise level. Business growth is virtually impossible today without keeping pace with current technology trends.

When it comes to cybersecurity, the more devices you have in your network, the more vulnerable you are. And because enterprises can deploy IoT devices and services at scale, they run a higher risk of being vulnerable to external threats.

That’s why, when adopting IoT in your business, you must be prepared to beef up your cybersecurity.

Because of the large number of devices in the network, IoT cybersecurity must be taken seriously. This is because a single infected device can infect and compromise the entire network. As a result, malicious agents can gain access to sensitive data or have control of your operations.  

4 Must-Haves for Foolproof IoT Cybersecurity

Because there are many entry points that malicious actors can take advantage of, IoT cybersecurity requires a multi-layered and scalable security solution. Here are some of the major components to consider as you build your IoT cybersecurity strategy.

  1. Block Attackers with Next-Generation Firewalls

A firewall is a network security device that monitors network traffic. It can permit or block data packets from accessing your devices based on a set of security rules and protocols. As the name suggests, its purpose is to establish a barrier between your internal network and external sources. Doing this prevents hackers and other cyber threats from gaining access to your network.

While there are many different types of firewalls, for your IoT cybersecurity strategy to be effective, you must employ next-generation firewalls (NGFW). Basic firewalls only look at packet headers, while NGFW includes deep packet inspection. This allows for the examination of the data within the packet itself. As a result, users can more effectively identify, categorize, or stop packets with malicious data.

Next-gen firewalls are a vital part of any IoT cybersecurity strategy as they can monitor traffic between multiple devices effectively. As a result, only verified traffic is allowed access to your network.

  1. Secure Data with Encryption

Another layer of security you need to consider for your IoT cybersecurity strategy is encryption.

A study by ZScaler shows that over 91.5% of enterprise transactions occur over plain text channels. That means only 8.5% of transactions are encrypted. This is worrisome as this means hackers have a huge opportunity to access enterprise systems and wreak havoc. For example, they could launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that could cripple your business.

One way you can prevent malicious actors from gaining access to your network is to secure your data with encryption. This must be both for your software and hardware. But more importantly, you must use encrypted VPN solutions to ensure the safe transmission of data between your devices.

  1. Identity and Access Management

Initially designed for users, identity and access management (IAM) security solutions were designed for users. IAM ensures that only authorized people have access to systems and information they need to do their job. It also ensures that only authorized users have access to critical data.

But with the proliferation of IoT, IAM (which is sound management) is becoming another layer of security that can be applied to devices.

Just like human beings, digital devices have identities. And IAM tools have evolved to the point of being able to manage hundreds of thousands of devices and their users. With products like A3 from AeroHive, for example, IAM can identify each device in your network and grants them specific access controls.

When it comes to enterprise IoT, managing all your connected devices’ digital identity is critical to safeguarding your network infrastructure. More important is to ensure that each device only has the required access levels to your data. 

  1. Network Segmentation

Network access control (NAC) has been a critical part of cybersecurity since the birth of networks. And to this day, it remains an integral part of most cybersecurity strategies – especially IoT cybersecurity. 

The good thing about traditional network endpoints is that they usually run endpoint protection services. However, with IoT, this is not the case. And that’s where network segmentation comes in.

Using NGFWs to segment your IoT network from the rest of your network is advisable as it keeps potential threats confined within a controlled environment. For example, if an attacker manages to gain access to a device in your segmented IoT network, the threat is confined to that part of your network alone.   

Putting It All Together – Designing an IoT Cybersecurity Strategy

Now that you’ve seen your best options for IoT cybersecurity let’s quickly dive into designing your strategy. However, note that this is not a guide set in stone as every business’s cybersecurity needs are never the same. 

That being said, here are a few guidelines to help you design your enterprise IoT cybersecurity strategy: 

Determine what You Need to Protect

With your security protocols and guidelines in place, the next step to foolproof  IoT cybersecurity is to determine what you need to protect. This involves conducting an audit on:

Your Processes 

Understanding the most critical processes in your organization is essential as it enables you to know where to focus your efforts. Most cyberattacks target processes that can cripple your business, so be sure to have a clear picture of these.  Know what they  are — know how to protect.

Your Devices 

From data storage devices to devices that facilitate your processes, you must know every device in your network and where it fits in your operations. Remember, you’re only as secure as your most vulnerable device. And because all your data is stored and transmitted by your devices, you must invest more effort and time in ensuring your security is foolproof here.

Your Personnel

One aspect of cybersecurity many organizations overlook is their staff. You must ensure that your employees are up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity protocols and safety measures. Failure to do this could make your employees unknowingly compromise your security. For example, one employee could give another a password just to speed up an aspect of your process. While this may seem as harmless as playing a game during work hours — this is a severe breach of security protocol.

Having a clear view of how your devices and their users are connected is crucial to understanding your network’s most vulnerable points. As a result, you can plan on which security solutions you can implement at each point.

Consider Compliance

Sure, compliance is not really a security issue, but they do go hand in hand. That’s why as you plan your IoT cybersecurity strategy, you must do so with compliance in mind.

Incompliance is a serious issue that must be addressed as you map out your cybersecurity plan. Failure to comply could lead to you being slapped with hefty fines.

So what exactly does compliance mean in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity compliance involves meeting various controls enacted by a regulatory authority, law, or industry group. These controls are put in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data that your business works with. Compliance requirements are different for each industry or sector, and that’s why you must always be careful to know your industry’s specificities.

To ensure that you’re compliant, always have a compliance program that runs in conjunction with your cybersecurity strategy.

Know and Anticipate Your Threats

To ensure that you design a robust IoT cybersecurity strategy, you need to know and understand the security risks you face. To do this, start by evaluating your business by asking questions like:

  • What is your product?
  • Who are your customers?

While these may seem like simple questions, the answers will help you answer two fundamental questions:

This will help you narrow down the types of attacks that will most likely be targeted at your business.

You can also determine the kind of threats you’re most likely to face by studying your competitors. Take note of their risk profiles or the most common breaches in your industry.

Knowing the threats you’re likely to face will help you understand the kind of security measures you must put in place. After all, knowing your enemy is half the battle won (so they say).

Once you’ve determined all these factors, the next step is the most critical – selecting your cybersecurity framework. 

Select an Appropriate Cybersecurity Framework

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to get practical by selecting and implementing your preferred cybersecurity framework. In essence, a cybersecurity framework is a set of policies and procedures recommended by leading cybersecurity organizations. These frameworks enhance cybersecurity strategies in enterprise environments. A cybersecurity framework must be documented for both knowledge and implementation procedures.

Different industries have different cybersecurity frameworks designed and developed to reduce the risk and impact of your network’s vulnerabilities.

While cybersecurity frameworks are never the same, they all must address five critical functions of cybersecurity.

  1. Identify. Your framework must help you identify the existing cyber touchpoints within your business environment.
  2. Protect. This function addresses how you take care of access control, data security, and other proactive tasks to ensure your network is secure.
  3. Detect: Here, your framework addresses how you will identify any potential breaches. This is usually done by monitoring logs and intrusion detection procedures at network and device level.
  4. Respond. How do you respond when a breach is detected? You must have a procedure for understanding the breach and fixing the vulnerability.
  5. Recover. This stage of your framework deals with creating a recovery plan, designing a disaster recovery system, and backup plans.

With a cybersecurity framework covering these five areas, your enterprise IoT cybersecurity strategy will be robust enough to handle (almost) anything. 

As I said, there are myriad different types of cybersecurity frameworks you can adopt. However, most of them fit in one of three categories, according to cybersecurity expert Frank Kim. Let’s take a cursory look at them, so you have a better understanding of frameworks and how they fit in your cybersecurity strategy:

Control frameworks are the foundation of your cybersecurity. They help you:

  • Identify a baseline set of controls
  • Assess the state of technical capabilities (and inefficiencies)
  • Prioritize the implementation of controls 
  • Develop an initial roadmap your security team should follow

Examples of control frameworks include NIST 800-53 and CIS Controls (CSC).

Program frameworks are designed to help you develop a proactive cybersecurity strategy that enables you to identify, detect, and respond to threats. This is achieved by helping you:

  • Assess the state of your security program
  • Build a more comprehensive security program
  • Measure your program’s maturity and compare it to industry benchmarks
  • Simplify communications between your security team and business leaders

Examples of program frameworks include ISO 27001 and NIST CSF, among others.

The risk framework allows you to prioritize security activities and ensure that the security team manages your cybersecurity program well. You can use this framework to:

  • Define key processes and steps for assessing and managing risk
  • Properly structure your risk management program
  • Identify, measure, and quantify risks 

Examples of risk frameworks include ISO 27005 and FAIR.

For an exhaustive list of examples of the different types of cybersecurity frameworks you can implement in your business, check out this article.

It’s Time to Take IoT Cybersecurity Seriously

The rapid digital transformation that has been brought about by COVID-19 and the fast adoption of remote work has led to many organizations’ cybersecurity being stretched to its limits. Throw in IoT into the mix, and cybersecurity has become a nightmare for most organizations.

But this shouldn’t be the case for your business.

The key to winning cyber wars is to be proactive and anticipate cyberattacks before they happen. And this is when a cybersecurity strategy comes to play. 

As you adopt IoT in your business’s infrastructure and processes, make sure to design and implement a robust security strategy. This will help mitigate the risk of you falling prey to malicious agents who thrive on taking advantage of vulnerabilities in an enterprise’s IT infrastructure.

So, it’s time to take your IoT cybersecurity seriously.

Neal Taparia

Entrepreneur & Investor

Neal Taparia is the co-founder of Imagine Easy Solutions, a portfolio of online educational services that reached over 30 million students yearly. Neal sold the business to Chegg (NYSE: CHGG), where he stayed there as an executive for three years. He’s now pursuing a new initiative, Solitaired, which ties classical games with memory and attention training.

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Technology Isn’t Always Productive – Here’s How to Use it Appropriately – ReadWrite

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Technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s a field of miraculous, magical developments that always have the power to help us save time, do more, and ultimately become more productive.

Right?

Technology Isn’t Always Productive

You might have had some experiences with technology that make you question whether a new app, a new gadget, or a new system is actually adding value to your life.

For example, you might have upgraded to a new project management system that ends up taking twice as much time to use. Or, even more commonly, you might have found yourself endlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed in the middle of an important project.

As a generalized, overarching trend, technology definitely makes us productive.

We’re capable of far more than we were even 10 years ago, and new industries and opportunities emerge every year from new tech. But technology isn’t always productive – in fact, it can sometimes rob you of productive time.

What steps can you take to ensure that all your technology choices end in higher productivity (or at least neutrality)?

Here’s How to Use Technology Appropriately

Outline Your Goals in Advance

Before adopting any new technology, it’s important to outline all your goals in advance. What, exactly, are you hoping to achieve?

Many new technologies make vague promises about making your life better, and many consumers end up buying those products because they seem, in some ambiguous way, “better” than what you currently have.

For example, you have the option to upgrade your refrigerator to a smart fridge. But what are you actually hoping to achieve from this upgrade? Do you want your food to spoil less often? Do you want to stay better organized with your food purchases? A refrigerator upgrade may not be necessary to achieve these goals.

What does productivity mean to you?

You’ll also need to think about what “productive” actually means to you. If a piece of new technology improved your productivity, what would that look like? Some technologies automate or simplify some aspect of your job (or life), only to introduce new problems.

For example, you might develop an algorithm that automatically generates a reading list for you – but it doesn’t always work quite right, so you have to sort through the list manually. You’ve saved an hour on task A, but you’re spending an hour on a new task, task B.

The clearer your goals are, the less likely you’ll be to use technology that has a net negative effect.

Rely on Objective Data

When choosing new technologies and evaluating their ability to improve your productivity, you need to rely on hard, objective data. What, specifically, is this improving and how much is it improving it?

This will help you filter out:

  • Cognitive biases. Human beings aren’t very logical creatures. We’re afflicted with a variety of cognitive biases that can distort how we perceive things.
  • Subjective feelings. You might feel like your phone is making you more productive, but the data may say something otherwise. This frequently happens with new acquisitions; we often like to justify our investments and pretend there are benefits when there aren’t any.
  • Claims and anecdotal reports. Tech companies often promote their products by citing good reviews and happy customers. But anecdotal evidence and personal claims rarely tell the full story.

Always Review Your Options in Depth

When searching for new technology, you’ll probably have many options to choose from. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors in almost every imaginable niche, so it’s important to review your choices carefully before making a final call.

Consider these choices for your technology:

  • Features and functionality. What does this product have that other competing products don’t have? Even more importantly, what does it do to boost your productivity?
  • Flexibility and scalability. How much can this product change, grow, and evolve with your company? This is especially important if you’re going to scale your business.
  • Intuitiveness and learnability. How long will it take to learn how to use this system properly? Low intuitiveness can compromise even the best tech investment.
  • Ratings and reviews. When combined with other considerations, ratings and reviews can be valuable in helping you make up your mind.
  • Objective metrics. More importantly, though, you’ll need to look at the numbers. How many hours could this save you? What new tasks will it require?
  • Costs. There may be a new app or gadget that can boost your productivity by 10 percent. But if it costs $10,000 a year, it may not be worth it. Consider the costs as well.

Automate Whatever You Can – but Understand the Limits

Automation is one of the best ways to save time and increase productivity in a business environment. Accordingly, you should strive to automate whatever you can.

That said, there are some limitations to what you can automate effectively. Automation relies on predictability and consistency; in an environment with unknown variables or areas that require human creativity, automation becomes less practical.

Excessive automation can also compromise certain aspects of your business; for example, you might be able to automate all your email marketing and sales campaigns, but it could turn people off for being too repetitive and “cold.”

Minimize Apps

For the most part, you should strive to limit the number of apps you rely on, both to simplify your infrastructure and to minimize time spent jumping between systems.

You can do this by consolidating the functionality of several apps into one, relying on integrations to send data to and from various apps, and by resisting the temptation to buy new apps just because they’re new and look cool.

Set Limits and Restrictions

Some apps and devices make it hard to be productive because they occupy too much of your time or interfere with your life in some crucial way. Accordingly, it’s advisable to set limits and restrictions for yourself, sometimes within the apps themselves.

For example:

  • Screen time. Most smartphones and modern devices have built-in settings and apps to help you track your screen time. You might even be able to limit it. This is especially important for apps and devices that tend to distract you or pull you away from more productive work.
  • Notifications and distractions. You should also be aware that even one small distraction has the potential to harm your productivity for nearly an hour; it takes time to build focus and momentum, and even a seemingly small distraction can ruin that. Turn off notifications wherever and whenever possible and consider closing out apps that might distract you (such as your email account during a busy workday).
  • Communication. Communication is valuable in any workplace or home, but modern technology makes it all too easy to get in touch with someone – even when they’re busy. Don’t drop everything you’re doing every time you get an email, instant message, or request for a video call; use your communication apps intentionally and mindfully.

Measure and Reflect

Rely on a combination of built-in tech tools, time trackers, and other analytics dashboards to keep track of your productivity and your progress. How are you using the various tools available in your arsenal? How much time are you spending on various platforms and on screens? How many hours are you working and how much were you able to get done?

Consistently measure your productivity and observe how it changes over time.

Don’t just assume that a new piece of tech is boosting your performance; try to prove it. If it’s not working for you, consider cutting it and moving onto something else.

If you aren’t careful, a new app, a new gadget, or another high-tech investment can end up working against you, either by distracting you, interfering with your work, or making something you were already doing harder.

As long as you think critically about your new tech adoption and continue to be discerning in your tech infrastructure, you can end up benefitting from new tech.

Image Credit: curioso photography; pexels; thank you!

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach…preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee.

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Top No-Code Tools to Automate Your Approval Process – ReadWrite

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If your business hasn’t automated its approval process, you’re probably losing valuable staff time to repetitive tasks. Approving timesheets, time-off requests, purchase orders, work orders, and more involves processes with many steps. In fact, just the act of sending emails to verify approvals can eat into your staff’s time.

Creating apps that automate your approval process no longer requires a web developer, thanks to the array of no-code tools available. These tools feature easy editors with drag-and-drop functionality that allow anyone to create an app and a workflow that automates the approval process. 

Available at various price points, any one of these apps could streamline approvals and pay off in many other ways for your business.

The Best No-Code Tools that Automate Your Approval Process

No-code tools that can automate your approval process run the gamut from user-friendly options for small businesses to more comprehensive platforms suitable for large enterprises. Whether you’re looking to create one app or want to design dozens that can handle every facet of your business, these no-code tools can help.

JotForm Approvals

JotForm Approvals streamlines the approval process without the need to do any coding. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to set up a workflow that includes approvers, conditional branches, and automated emails.

With the JotForm Form Builder, you can easily build an online form to quickly collect submissions. Those submissions might be timesheets, work order requests, inventory purchase requests, or any other type of request that requires approval.

Once someone completes the approval form, the submission triggers the approval workflow you created. JotForm Approvals makes it easy to track and manage the process, and the automated tasks prevent staff from spending time sorting requests, following up on missing information, and so on.

You can set up your approval process to send automated emails to approvers when they receive a new task. And as tasks are approved, form respondents will receive an automated email notification. 

Approvers don’t have to manually draft and send emails, so they can stay focused on the work of approving requests, rather than all of the repetitive work that goes along with approval.

All approval requests are saved in a central location, further saving approvers time. Information gathered through forms populates a database in JotForm Tables that supervisors and approvers can access for a broad-picture view. 

The database makes monitoring the entire process simple, and supervisors can potentially spot problems and holdups early on in the process.

The JotForm Mobile Forms app, which is available for free on iOS or Android, enables approvers to manage both forms and approval flow from their phones.

JotForm Approvals is free.

Checkbox

Checkbox features a convenient drag-and-drop design that makes for easy and fast workflow automation. This app enables you to create parallel workflows, including reminders, scheduled tasks, and approvals, to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.

Checkbox’s predetermined logic options make for streamlined processes that are accurate and appropriate. Including calculations, digital spreadsheets, if-then logic, and decision-tree logic in your workflows help to avoid holdups and reduces the demand for staff to make decisions and sort requests manually.

This no-code platform is comprehensive. Not only does it handle workflow creation and approvals, but Checkbox also features a calculation engine capable of creating complex rules and logic. 

The dashboard and analytics help you identify what’s working and how to improve your business, while integrations with other tools make Checkbox a seamless addition to your existing business technology and systems.

The template gallery is loaded with templates to save you time and make the automation process faster. You can easily customize templates for common approval situations, like performance reviews, document execution approvals, and expense approvals.  

Checkbox offers a 14-day free trial, so you can experience it for yourself at no risk.

Decisions

Decisions is designed for fast implementation, so you can automate all of your business systems. Its rules-driven automation can pivot with the changing business environment, so you can establish systems that will adapt to shifting regulations, demands, and more.

This no-code platform includes powerful and comprehensive features, so you can rely on it for all of your automation needs. There’s no need to worry about integrating other tools or dealing with compatibility issues.

The Decisions visual designer is user-friendly, relying on graphics so that anyone — with or without coding or IT background — can automate processes. The Workflow Engine boasts more than 3,000 pre-built steps, making it easy to create workflows and processes that automate everything from work orders to vacation requests.

The drag-and-drop interface makes building custom reports simple, so you can access the specific information you need for a project, investor, or meeting. With such easy access to trends and business metrics, this platform can help you address processes that aren’t working and improve those that are.

Decisions goes beyond your typical automation platform with detailed reporting and built-in testing and debugging capabilities. Whether you’re just getting started with automation or are working with complex configurations, these testing options can help to head off trouble before you put a process into place. 

You can even create permanent rule and workflow unit tests that automatically run with any rule changes. This ensures that your processes perform the way you want them to and allows you to spot errors early on before they become costly mistakes.

With its extensive functionality, Decisions stands to save businesses significant time. It’s well-suited for large-scale enterprises looking to automate their approval processes and systems across their operations. 

Pricing starts at $4,839 per month for a single server with unlimited users. Enterprise pricing details are available upon request.

Rindle

Rindle, a no-code automation platform, allows you to build processes that enhance your business and your team. Trusted by top brands like the YMCA and AudienceView, Rindle features an easy-to-use dashboard and versatile capabilities.

With Rindle, you can create rules that will guide each step of your workflow, including your approval processes. The rules are customizable, so you can implement the steps and requirements that make sense for your business.

You don’t have to be a coding expert to work with Rindle. It comes equipped with more than 20 no-code triggers, the ability to use “and” and “or” logic for conditions, and more than 30 no-code actions. This simplifies the process of building your workflow and rules.

The Rindle dashboard resembles a card system like Asana or Trello but with more sophisticated capabilities. While you can still assign tasks and deadlines, the automation you set up can also create subtasks and take over some of the work.

You can use Rindle to create rule-driven workflows for your approval process. Whether you’re sorting emails based on the responses provided or need to ensure that requests requiring multiple approvals get in front of the right people, this platform can simplify the process and make for faster, more accurate results.

The Rindle Professional plan costs $9 per user, per month, while the Business plan costs $20 per user, per month. All plans include a 14-day trial.

Quickbase

Quickbase allows you to automate business processes without requiring any coding. The drag-and-drop visual builder is very user-friendly, and it helps you visualize how an app will function.

With Quickbase, you can upload data from a spreadsheet or by copying and pasting, to create a database. You can then build an app with that data.

When it comes to automating your approval process, Quickbase’s task management is highly customizable. Automated notifications, reports, and approvals can improve efficiency and keep your business operating smoothly, while reducing the time staff spend on standard tasks. 

Quickbase offers a library of templates that can help you set up automated processes, so you don’t have to create a custom app.

The platform also integrates with various popular services, including Box, Gmail, Google Drive, Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.

Quickbase offers a 30-day free trial, and there’s no credit card required to sign up for the trial. Pricing is customized; contact the company for more info.

Flowfinity

With the Flowfinity platform, you can create custom apps for enterprise-grade solutions. Top businesses, including Ford, Campbell’s, Pepperidge Farm, and more, trust  Flowfinity.

The visual interface is simple, so it’s not overwhelming, but it’s also highly versatile. You can publish apps instantly, and they’ll be automatically installed to save you time. Dashboards allow for data visualizations so you can monitor your business and app performance.

Flowfinity’s point-and-click editor simplifies the process of building an app. The apps are automatically published for users, who might be in the field or in the office. 

The apps centralize your data, no matter where your users are located, and integrate it with your backend systems. From there, you can create reports, custom PDFs, export the data as a CSV file, or visualize and analyze it right in your dashboard.

Creating an app with Flowfinity helps to facilitate information flow while eliminating manual processes. You can use these apps to automate your business processes, including streamlining the approval process. The result is enhanced productivity and accuracy, as well as time-saving benefits for your staff and business as a whole.

In addition to automating approval processes, you could potentially use these apps to automate many other processes. Features like skip logic, barcode scanning, personalized emails, and the ability to create custom workflows mean there are potentially endless ways to apply these apps in your day-to-day operations.

Flowfinity offers a 14-day free trial and doesn’t require any credit card information to sign up for the trial. Pricing details aren’t available online.

Kintone

The Kintone platform simplifies the process of building the custom apps your business needs. This no-code platform doesn’t require any IT or third-party developer assistance, saving you time and money.

Kintone offers a library of more than 1,000 new apps that can serve as a starting point. The apps are all free and customizable, so you don’t have to build an app from scratch. 

You can create apps to automate your business approval processes, make for easier inventory management and ordering, facilitate time-off request approvals, and so much more.

As you build, you can also explore the wide selection of available extensions, including very popular programs like Dropbox, Evernote, Eventbrite, Gmail, HubSpot, and more. These extensions can increase your app’s functionality, ensuring it works with the other programs you’re already using for seamless integration with your business.

While Kintone makes the process of building apps easier, it also serves as a central dashboard so you can conveniently access all of your data.

Its in-database collaboration option allows you to easily search, read, and join conversations, which helps keep all of your team members on track and up to date. Teams can communicate through threads, in-record comments, user profile walls, and private messages, ensuring those conversations are stored and available when needed.

Accessible on an internet browser, Kintone is also available as an iOS and Android mobile app, so you can always stay connected.

A professional Kintone subscription starts at $24 per month, per user, with a minimum of five users. Discounted nonprofit and education and government subscriptions are also available.

Kintone offers a free trial that doesn’t require a credit card for signup.

Open as App

With Open as App, you can use your existing data to create an app. This platform pulls data from Excel, Google Sheets, or a database, all without any coding needed.

Once you’ve created your apps, it’s easy to manage them through the centralized dashboard. The dashboard gives you control over rights, security, and access settings. Your app will be visible only to you, and you can decide when and if you’re ready to share it with others.

With Open as App, you can automate your business processes, including approvals. It’s possible to automate time tracking sheets, quote follow-ups, approval notifications, sales system updates, and more. The apps themselves, can include automation like push notifications and automated emails, making them extraordinarily efficient.

Open as App helps you design four different types of apps:

  • List apps convert your data into apps that are easy to access both online and offline. Users can update reports and databases, filter data according to specific criteria, and update the data.
  • Dashboard apps make it easy to access your Excel or Google Sheets dashboards right from your phone. Charts update automatically, and you can customize colors and chart types.
  • Calculation apps make it simple and intuitive to use complicated spreadsheets. Formulas from your spreadsheets are automatically added to an app, so other team members can use the formulas and logic.
  • Survey apps make gathering survey information easier and more efficient. With this app, users can quickly fill out survey information on their phones, increasing the response rates.

While you can build a custom app from scratch, Open as App also offers a wide assortment of apps online. They can serve as an inspiration and are available publicly, so you can see what’s possible with Open as App and what type of app might work best for your business.

Open as App offers a free plan that allows you to create one app and share it with one user. The Business plan, which allows you to create 10 apps and share them with five users, costs $106 per month. A custom Enterprise plan is also available.

Choosing the Right No-Code Tools for Your Business

With so many no-code tools available, whether you’re running a small startup or a larger enterprise, you can find a tool that has the functionality and capacity you need. 

Choosing the right tool for your business.

When choosing the best app, you’ll start by outlining the processes that you want to automate and the other potential uses for apps within your business. Many of these tools can help you create apps for all sorts of purposes, so write up a list of potential apps and look for a tool that can help you create those apps.

Many of these tools feature pricing that depends on the number of seats or the number of users.

It’s helpful to review the roles that each employee in your company will play, whether that’s developing an app or using an app. Having this information can help you assess both pricing and value as you consider these different tools.

Automation gives you accuracy, productivity and costs savings.

Keep in mind, too, that automating the approval process (and other business processes) pays off in enhanced accuracy, productivity, and cost savings. While you might invest in a no-code tool to develop the apps you need, remember that it’s really an investment in your business’s success and efficiency. 

Image Credit: cottonbro; pexels; thank you!

John Boitnott

CEO, Boitnott Consulting LLC

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, print, radio and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat. You can see his latest work on his blog,
jboitnott.com

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Importance of Paid Social Media | Wild Ads

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Psychological Techniques Used in Selling Products


With smartphones and laptops becoming an everyday essential, anything that is available or can be viewed and purchased through your mobile becomes an instant hit. Also, social media is the new habituate to today’s populate. Want to reach people? Put it on social media, because that is where you can find a lot of audiences.

Importance of Paid Social Media

This exponential increase in social media usage led to using this platform for marketing. As time flew, this marketing platform became more reliable. Say you post a picture of your product on social media. Someone from your friend’s circle views it. They happen to like it, so they do either of the following:

  • Share it with their friends
  • Inquire about the product
  • Post it in their story
  • Retweet your post

Ask yourself some questions to get to the best point of your social media output.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How will you know the traffic source?
  • How to find the bounce rate?
  • Will you analyze your customer touchpoints?

To understand the question — we need to understand the traffic and age groups visiting the various social media. Analyzing the touchpoints based on source, local, and age group will help get this data. Your touchpoint questions are where paid social media will help you. Paid social media is the answer to the above key insights. So, how will this paid social media work for you?

First, let’s explore what exactly is paid social media?

Social Media is not that different from other forms of advertising. You pay to various social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to display your ads to their consumer’s profiles. The biggest advantage of paid social media is that those companies have relevant data about their users, and your ads will be displayed to users who need your product/service.

Identify and filter out people who are most likely to convert.

It is different to pitch to a crowd to identify your product, but it is a whole another thing to make potential consumers aware of your product and make them your consumers. The latter is exactly what paid social media does to your business!

Are you guys still wondering why you should embrace paid social media marketing? The listicle below will help us gain depth about paid social media marketing and how it is the most profitable route,

  • Flexible Budget
  • Help Analyze Touchpoints
  • Optimize Content
  • Easy Funneling Potentials
  • Enhance Brand Awareness
  • Gain Awareness of Current Market

Flexible Budget

You can plan your budget. You can promote your brand on social media with a minimal budget. You will be charged on the type of ad, length of your ad, and the placement of your ad in the potential customers’ media feed. There are many schemes from which you can opt for the one that best suits your budget. The coverage of the scheme varies based on your budget.

Apart from that, there’s PPC which is pay per click which means you have to pay a certain amount to the social media company for every click your ad gets via their media. This means you can pay after seeing the results you desire on your webpage.

Such options help you carefully plan all the aspects of your advertisement, like length, content, and placement. You’ll look at the prospective clicks you want to make planned profits with planned costs and make the most of your ad.

Research and analyze the plan that best suits your needs and invest appropriately. Fortunately, the best part about social media marketing is that it can be done both at an exorbitant price and at a low-cost budget.

Look for: 10 Low-Cost Social Media Marketing Tactics That Work

Help Analyze Touchpoints

You will be able to plan a more concentric campaign if you get to know the touchpoints. Touchpoints are the possible ways to interact with your consumers (not physically or directly), which influences them to feel a certain way about your product.

Categorizing the points based on age, source, campaign medium, and the monthly trend will help customize your marketing plans.

Upon delving deep, you should choose the appropriate customers who really need your product/service and try to market your product in a meaningful way to establish a bond with them. Touchpoints are basically like the race you need to run to make your potential customers become your actual and regular customers.

What are Touchpoints

Touchpoints involve a lot of demographic detailing and planning, which is a pretty huge and essential task you need to undertake when you’re organically marketing your brand.

Who knows people better than the media, where most people spend most times of their lives? Yup, you guessed it right, it’s social media companies. In the case of paid social media, the touchpoints covered under social media are taken care of by those companies for your brand.

Optimize Content

By analyzing the touchpoints, you can optimize the content based on your target audience’s preferences. Content construction and framing is a crucial step in marketing. You have to carefully frame and spread your ads to decide how your touchpoint connects with or perceives your brand.

Marketing

No amount of ads or paid marketing or quality products can save your brand if your marketing content does not convey much. You get to see, analyze and, to an extent, control the success of your ads based on deciding its content wisely.

As an initial wave, consider using your most successful ad, which had high reach and conversions organically into paid social media marketing. You’re basically going to project your most successful campaign to a larger group of potential customers. The larger amount of potential customers might help you kick start your product on a wider platform and kind of assures most profits because the content you’ve chosen has worked the best already.

Strategies

In the long run, you may have to apply different strategies to pin down the content, leading to most conversions. Other famous tricks of the trade are to A/B test your best campaigns in specific sample groups to choose the campaign with the most potential.

Easy Funneling Potentials

Paid social media will help find target audiences easily. This will help you plan your marketing strategies. By understanding what type of marketing works for your product, you can help increase the magnetizing rate. This will also help divert more traffic to your web pages.

Enhance Brand Awareness

Customizing the content will ultimately enhance the user experience, thereby help your product reach its audience better.

Gain Awareness of Current Market

By constantly analyzing your audience’s interaction with your page, you can learn which product stands out in which locale. You can also thereby gain awareness about the current marketing working for that locale.

Image Credit: from the author; thank you!

Bala Kumar

Digital Marketing Consultant

Hello, I’m Bala Kumar, a Certified and Performance-driven SEO Consultant and Digital Marketing Expert. With five years of expertise, I can build scalable digital marketing strategies. My core competencies are paid marketing, PPC, SEO, SMM, Inbound marketing, Market research and analysis, Blogging and Local Search Marketing.

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