Disrupting the low voltage industry one innovative app at a time
Lone Star Communications designs, integrates, installs, and services life safety communications systems for hospitals, schools, and commercial properties. They are installation distributors for several life safety system product lines.
Both Cliff Switzer, Healthcare Systems Specialist, and Brian Banks, Technology Integrations and Development Specialist, have been working at Lone Star Communications for more than a decade.
But, they didn’t start working closely together building Glide apps until they joined the Division of Disruption Group at their company a couple of years ago. It was clear then that these two had complementary skill sets and were destined to do big things.
These days, the dynamic duo has created over 50 big and small apps in Glide. But, it all started on nights and weekends with a passion project to build the TechStar app, a better workforce management solution for the 100+ field technicians at Lone Star Communications.
Before Brian and Cliff built this app in Glide, the technicians in the field had to call or log in to customer connection websites for each manufacturer.
“We can improve the ability to get information in our technicians' hands faster,” says Brian. “When our technicians are out in the field, they've got their tool belt on, they're on a ladder, they're at a hospital. They normally had to log into multiple manufacturers’ websites and our internal customer connection portal to get a cut sheet or download an installation guide or other information that they needed in order to work on something.”
This was a cumbersome process and became even more complex when combined with onboarding and managing new employees' access to multiple manufacturing websites.
Building the TechStar app that kickstarted it all
Brian and Cliff got to work building the TechStar app, which would get installation information into the hands of field technicians and customers faster.
They decided to build the app using Glide to give internal users access to their manufacturers’ technical and support documentation. It also allowed them to build a centralized contact database across the company’s multiple offices and departments in the organization.
Brian says, “Using Glide, we were able to provide our technicians with a tool that, on day one, made them much more efficient. It provided better communication, and it solved a real need. To be able to do that within an easy-to-use environment like Glide quickly was a game changer for us.”
The TechStar app was an instant hit company-wide. TechStar allowed Lone Star to share product data, create learning modules, and even load technical wiring information. They even built a suggestion box into the application to get requests for new features. As Lone Star received more feedback from the technicians, they started adding more feature requests.
As a result, TechStar has become the go-to application internally for product information. It has saved an incredible amount of time in the field. In the past year, they’ve had over 80,000 interactions in the application from over 250+ users using the app.
Brian adds, “Our executive team saw how much of a difference it made for the company. They started asking, ‘What else can you guys do in Glide?’”
“At that point, we just started creating and building more, to the point where some of our peer groups within the industry saw what we were doing and they became interested in it, and they wanted us to create it for their company. That all happened within a year and a half.”
Gaining superpowers with Glide
Some notable apps they’ve built in Glide help with project management, employee engagement, time-tracking, a company newsletter, and even an internal social network.
Brian says, “We've created a social network for our industry. So it's like LinkedIn for the low voltage industry.”
“We do have some apps that we thought were just cool to create, but the majority of them come from a real need we noticed.”
Cliff adds, “Glide allows you to prototype fast and incorporate several other development tools into one central design. If you are skilled in Adobe tools or come from a website development background, then your skills are amplified with Glide.”
“Getting the app together, Cliff handles a lot of the UI, and I handle any type of integration where we may be pulling videos in from YouTube or some link to documentation or API integration,” says Brian. “In most cases, we could generally construct something in a couple of days.”
Brian says, “Being able to write directly into a Glide Table versus doing it through a Google Sheet is one of the things that gets me excited.”
50+ Glide apps later and more inspired than ever
More than 50 apps later, the two are even more inspired to keep building and refining what they’ve created.
“When we hit a roadblock, we just power through it and figure out a solution to get it fixed,” says Cliff. “Glide gives us what is almost like a canvas. It's like using Photoshop. Anyone can open it up, but what can you make with it?
“Anyone can make a Glide app, but if we all made a contact app and we all had to compete against each other, could we make the best-looking app and functioning app out of 10 of them? That's really what we nerd out on, is how do we make these look like professional consumer-like apps that you would see from Apple or Logitech, but in this no-code environment? The framework's usually pretty basic, and then we put the icing on it and start polishing it off to make it look very simplistic and elegant.”
At any given time, the dynamic duo have dozens of ideas for what to build next in Glide.
Brian says, “I'm in Dallas, Texas. He's in Houston, Texas. And after five o'clock, we're on the phone talking through ideas.”
Cliff adds, “Every app or every problem just makes you more creative. So once you figure out how to do something in one app, you're like, well, shoot, I can go back and add that to the other three. You learn a new skill each time and it's really about compiling those skills together.”
“And then, when you get to that 10th app you make, the ease of making it is cut down 10x. You have to kick the first door in, and then you're going to see there are 10 other doors, and then you just keep opening doors, and you don't know what you don't know until you start going through those doors. Glide allows us to create quickly and open up more doors.”