Earlier this month, TrackVia held its very first Citizen Developer Hackathon. What’s a hackathon, you ask? According to Wikipedia, a hackathon is “an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.”
And what’s a Citizen Developer? In short, they are users that have developed their own business applications for consumption by other users, and who have done so outside their IT departments.
The TrackVia Citizen Developer Hackathon was comprised of employees in teams of up to four people. Our team of Citizen Developers chose to create an application most likely to be adopted by a customer. We started brainstorming ideas based on everyday interactions and transactions that are inefficient or delayed due the lack of technology and abundance of paper.
A couple members of our team recently moved to Denver and experienced the mad rush for available rental properties first-hand. The process of renting an apartment in Denver, as I’m sure can be echoed among other urban areas with an influx of young professionals, is quite arduous. When arriving at an open house for a rental unit, one is greeted, by not only the leasing agent, but also by about 10 other couples attempting to rent the same unit. The determining factor of which lucky potential renter’s application is selected could be one of two things: who submits the rental application first, or who submits the deposit first. This aspect of the rental process would become our primary motivator for creating the AIR (Application, Inspection, Request) Application.
With the AIR Application that our Citizen Developer Hackathon team created, the antiquated process of requiring each potential renter to complete a long paper rental application and then waiting for approval is no longer necessary.
First, we sketched out what we wanted to accomplish with our application, and then built it using TrackVia Express’ easy drag-and-drop interface. None of the members of our team come from a programming background, but that wasn’t even an issue, since TrackVia is made for the average business user that has a great idea, but doesn’t know how to code.
After building and testing our desktop application, our team downloaded the free TrackVia iPad app from the App Store. With this mobile version of TrackVia, any user can access their TrackVia desktop application(s) on the go from an iPad.
How did our team of Citizen Developers envision using the AIR App on the go?
Glad you asked! Through the use of TrackVia’s iPad app, a potential renter could digitally submit an application in mere minutes at the property he or she is currently viewing as long as an Internet connection is available. This could shave days or weeks off of the leasing agent’s process of finding a renter, as well as save the renter equal time in finding an apartment. The AIR App can also extend beyond just the application process to automate more legacy paper-based systems as a part of the rental process.
With a tool like the AIR App, renters and leasing agents could conduct walk-through inspections of rental units prior to the renter moving in, and without having to write long descriptions of any issues on paper and attach separate photos. Instead, the AIR Application would allow a renter and leasing agent to walk through the unit together while taking pictures of issues encountered and document them in one central database that can be instantly saved, stored, and sent to the appropriate parties. The application also has the ability to capture signatures of both parties to ensure accurate and secure information. Any problem areas can be flagged and sent to a maintenance team as a work order.
This brings us to the final aspect of the AIR Application — maintenance requests. If a tenant has a maintenance issue or needs something repaired, he or she could simply submit a request with an accompanying photo using either a Web form or the TrackVia iPad app, both of which let users push pertinent information directly into the online leasing application you have built. Maintenance requests can be automatically directed to property management, assigned a priority level, and then routed to the maintenance team as a work order. The maintenance requests can be tracked by which stage they are currently in, and visibility can also be granted to the tenant for full disclosure of the path to resolution.
Anyone can become a Citizen Developer
Leasing agents, property managers, maintenance staff, potential renters, and tenants can all benefit in many ways by use of an application like the AIR App. Most importantly, a team of normal business users like my colleagues and myself developed it. TrackVia has empowered me to become a Citizen Developer and has provided me the tools necessary to create a business application with no skills in coding or development.