Even when you’re in the greenhouse, the barn or the field, there’s a very good chance your phone is on your person. With constant communication necessary for those running businesses and apps designed to make agribusiness simpler, your phone has become an indispensable tool.

It can be easy to get bogged down with how much the pocket-sized devices can hold, though. Helping farmers and growers optimize their phones and tablets is Randy Dean, MBA. He explained how to make these tools work for you at the most recent NAFDMA Convention.

The smartphone era started with the Palm Pilot, then came the Blackberry, then came the iPod/iPad/iPhone (with Android hot on their heels). Cloud computing and 4G/5G connectivity is where we are today – if you live in an area where it’s available, that is.

“If you’re very rural, think about installing Wi-Fi hotspots,” Dean suggested. “They’re good for you, good for your staff and good for your customers – it presents a value-added proposition. But you need the infrastructure and the internet to succeed.”

You also need to figure out what works best for you. There are now more than three million apps available. Dean said the key is to keep all your important tools on a “central productivity panel” – one screen on your device. This should include your email, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes.

You can add your social media apps to this screen as well, as long as you use them judiciously during work hours. Social media is great for making connections – but it can also sap a lot of your time if you’re not conscious of it.

Part of your productivity panel should include team management apps. Those recommended by attendees included Asana, Monday, Trello and Microsoft Teams. Another app, Cvent, was noted specifically for event management. Dean also said to find a secure app to save all your passwords.

For customer/client relationship management, Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho, Keap and others were recommended. All of them help you track and plan communications for social media, emails and more.

As for apps especially for customers, Dean noted that 20% of all internet users in the U.S. never do a search on a computer – they use their phones instead. “The younger the demographic, the higher that number,” he said. “Look at destination-based app development, because that’s what Gen Z uses.”

For your device’s productivity infrastructure, Dean said to focus on the “killer” suite apps: either Microsoft 365 (which includes Outlook, the Office programs, ToDo, OneNote, OneDrive, Office Lens and Teams) or the Google Suite/Workspace (which includes Gmail, Calendar, Tasks, Contacts, Keep, Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, Google Drive, Duo and Hangouts Meet).

Here’s an insider tip: Office Lens is especially useful, as it can turn a photo your take into a workable PDF.

“What else do you need for standard productivity?” Dean asked. “The basics are document readers/editors, the Adobe Reader for PDFs and a good search tool for the web.”

He also recommended using peripheral devices, such as a Bluetooth keyboard, printer and smart TV, to help you do your necessary work wherever you want to.

by Courtney Llewellyn