A few well-chosen mobile apps can make a world of difference to CXOs who want to be more productive, agile, and in touch with business and tech developments. Here are five tools that fit the bill.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
1: WSJ.com and WSJ Mobile (paid annual subscription)
The Wall Street Journal (Figure A) is the quintessential business newspaper, and it has all the obvious content you would expect around financial markets, corporate earnings, and business news. In addition to the obvious, each edition has an "offbeat" story about topics ranging from maple syrup to overweight elephants. I've also found the world and political news to be less partisan than other U.S. papers, although the opinion section is unabashedly conservative. And I've rarely been let down by a book or film recommendations from the paper.
Mobile and tablet apps are available for most smartphone and tablet platforms, but the functionality differs among them. The WSJ is the best way I've found to keep abreast of business and general news and to grab interesting conversational nuggets that are useful everywhere from the boardroom to the barroom.
2: Toodledo (annual subscription and charge for mobile applications)
Despite the whimsical name, Toodledo (Figure B) is a serious task manager. You can adapt it for various task management methodologies based on concepts from books like Getting Things Done and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or use a multi-dimensional scheme of your own creation. "Official" mobile apps exist for Android and iOS. The iOS version even converts dictated tasks from Siri and allows you to set default criteria for them. Other platforms, including Windows 8, have third-party applications that sync with the web-based backend.
3: LinkedIn (free; premium service available)
Social networking is overloaded with self-serving banalities, but LinkedIn has maintained most of its business-minded appeal. While some still regard LinkedIn (Figure C) as a source for job seekers, it's great for gathering intelligence on people you're about to meet. You can usually find out details like schools attended and previous jobs, along with titles and other people in someone's network — helpful details in advance of a meeting. And it's a great way to keep in touch with peers as they swap companies and positions.
4: iThoughts Mind Mapping (iOS $7.99)
If you're unfamiliar with mind mapping, you can easily find an overview via Google. Essentially, a mind map is a visual outline arranged around a central topic. When I'm starting a new project or trying to flesh out a nascent idea, I usually begin with a mind map. Several software products exist to speed and better organize the mind-mapping process, and iThoughts (Figure D) is a capable product for iOS. It will connect to popular cloud file storage services, like Dropbox, and read and write most of the popular desktop file formats. (I generally use XMind on the desktop.)
iThoughts provides an easy way to flesh out an idea on the airplane or during a midnight bout of inspiration. Even if you have no interest in mind-mapping software, I highly recommend exploring the technique.
5: Living Earth ($2.99)
Because modern CXOs work with teams and travel across continents on a regular basis, it's helpful to know if it's 4 AM before calling a peer in another country — or whether you'll need to pack a parka for that upcoming trip to Beijing. While plenty of world weather and time apps exist, few show data as beautifully as Living Earth (Figure E), an app that's as close as most of us will come to the view astronauts have of our planet. Aside from weather and time information, the app displays large weather patterns, like hurricanes, and lets you easily see the boundaries of night and day.
There may be cheaper ways to view this information, but few combine pragmatic information with beauty for a mere three bucks.
Do you have an app or two that belong on this list? Share your recommendations with fellow execs.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.