Robots & Pencils CEO Tracey Zimmerman Shares Career Insights on Podcast Episode

Focus on Talent Podcast Interviews President & CEO Tracey Zimmerman

Tracey Zimmerman, President & CEO, Robots & Pencils
Tracey Zimmerman, President & CEO, Robots & Pencils

The December episode of the Bells Falls Search Focus on Talent podcast featured a conversation with Tracey Zimmerman, President and CEO at Robots & Pencils.

In this episode, Zimmerman discusses her winding career path, underlaid by an interest in technology and helping others. The journey includes nursing classes, teaching herself to code, and working in education before becoming CEO at Robots & Pencils. For those unfamiliar with the digital transformation firm, Zimmerman introduces its basis in blending the sciences and the humanities.

Reflecting on her professional growth, Zimmerman discusses how persistence, curiosity, and mentorship has helped her achieve success. Additionally, she shares how she strives to always offer value to others before asking anything from them. For job seekers and current professionals, Tracey also advises understanding and focusing on how your role impacts the company’s strategic goals and overall performance.

Zimmerman was interviewed by Ron Laneve. Laneve is the founder and managing partner of the Bell Falls Search recruiting agency.

Catch the full episode here!

Constellation Research Names Robots & Pencils as a Global Leader in Digital Transformation Services

R&P Featured in the 2023 Constellation ShortList’s Digital Transformation Services: Global category

Robots & Pencils is proud to announce our inclusion on the Constellation ShortList in the Digital Transformation Services: Global category. 2023 marks the company’s fourth consecutive year of receiving this honor. The Constellation ShortList assists companies in their search for the technologies and support they need to realize their digital transformation goals. 

The ShortList’s Digital Transformation Services: Global category recognizes organizations that partner with companies to “reimagine business models, co-innovate and co-create future solutions” that can be deployed at scale. Organizations must work with clients across three or more continents to be featured. To identify the world’s top digital transformation firms, Constellation Research analysts evaluate over one hundred vendors, assessing client inquiries, partner conversations, customer references, vendor selection projects, market share, and internal research. 

Robots & Pencils was recognized in the Digital Transformation Services category for our proven track record of advising on best practices and delivering high-impact solutions. Analysts considered our work in areas such as:

  • Business strategy
  • Design thinking 
  • Innovative product and service delivery models
  • Technology strategy, road mapping, and execution
  • User experience
  • Innovation centers

With clients in education, financial services, consumer technology, and more, Robots & Pencils creates journey-driven products and experiences that provide exponential impact. Leveraging design and technology expertise, we build solutions that unlock data and insights, infuse intelligent automation, and accelerate product innovation amidst a rapidly changing industry and technology landscape.

The Constellation ShortList previously featured Robots & Pencils in the Digital Transformation Services (DTX): Global category in 2022, 2021, and 2020.

The Constellation ShortList is produced by Constellation Research. Constellation Research is a technology research and advisory firm known for delivering strategic guidance that helps companies transform their organizations through the early adoption of leading-edge technologies. 

To learn more about the services that Robots & Pencils offers, reach out to us today at

From Chaos to Clarity: The Digital Modernization Journey

“Barely controlled chaos in a highly complex environment with fragmented innovation solutions”–that’s how one of our clients recently described their organization. I hear versions of this all the time, so if that’s how you feel, trust me–you’re not the only one! We’re in a time when adaptability and speed are make-or-break, but fragile infrastructure and fragmented data, tools, and processes keep tripping up plans. I see it over and over. It’s why digital modernization is so important.

Organizations need a stronger foundation that makes it easier to extract insights that can really make a difference to business results, to adopt new tech, and to deliver products and services at scale. But building that foundation won’t be a quick or straightforward fix. I’m talking about consolidating your current tech stack, plus introducing new implementations, integrations, and system improvements. It’s a lot! To succeed, 3 areas in particular are going to demand your attention and planning–unlocking data, improving (or replacing!) aging infrastructure, and increasing interconnectivity.

(BTW: This is blog 2 in a series on key priorities for business and tech leaders. My prior blog intros these priorities and other influential marketplace trends.)

3 Essential Elements of Digital Modernization Efforts

Unlocking hidden insights by unifying fragmented data

Most companies struggle with disconnected data and insights spread across systems and departments. When we come into an organization, we routinely find departments trying to solve problems on their own with off-the-the shelf systems (including Excel).

While everyone has good intentions, what happens is that they create tech and data silos across the organization. Eventually, a dozen disconnected applications are capturing (but not sharing!!) similar data. The other challenge many clients face is the sheer volume and complexity of data collected for personalizing customer or student experiences. Data winds up scattered across different teams, files, websites, and systems, stored in ways that are too painful to query or analyze. Yet all this powerful data is just waiting to be unleashed!

As the purse strings tighten, leaders can’t afford to leave those insights untapped or to support disparate systems. And we definitely shouldn’t be missing out on sharing valuable data across teams, where combined with the power of human creativity, new ideas can emerge. Aggregating data so that it is easily accessible is a must-do first step in practically every digital modernization journey.

Organizations need to integrate and scale solutions that work, and ditch the rest. So often I see people throwing good money after a bad solution that’s not working for their business. If you don’t have the expertise in house, find a partner who can help centralize your data and transform this goldmine of information into actionable insights.

Increasing flexibility by addressing aging infrastructure

Tech debt and aging patchwork infrastructure are a real roadblock to innovation and growth. Perhaps the problems resulted from a merger or acquisition, siloed planning, or moving fast while addressing pressing issues (like responding to shifting customer behaviors in a pandemic for example!). Whatever the cause, aging and disjointed systems are holding companies back. It’s time to address that tech debt and commit to digital modernization. Say goodbye to archaic systems in favor of more resilient, flexible infrastructure. But know that lack of clarity around ownership and the impact of system deprecation is almost certain to cause problems. To minimize issues, start by gathering and documenting this info. Having a super detailed and thorough change management plan is also vital!

(A tip from our robots: API layers can help you transition aging tech stacks. Rather than fully reengineering a tech stack from scratch, you can leverage APIs as an intermediary to create consistent access and replace the systems behind the scenes piece by piece, allowing your organization to deal with the change in more manageable chunks.)

Preparing for the future by increasing interconnectivity

One huge positive is that everyone now sees the power of connected data, systems, and “things”. Companies recognize that data surrounds everything, and that data models should be planned intentionally from the start of a project. They’re asking the right questions, like: How will we use integration to connect this data to that data? Can we use sensors to track movement of physical items? How will we ensure data integrity across systems? How do we extract those juicy insights to become a more data-led organization? I’m so glad to see leaders doing this planning up front in their digital modernization initiatives!

In some cases, I see interconnectivity extending even further as companies expose APIs to products and experiences outside their organizations. For users, this opens the door for highly curated end-to-end experiences that cut across multiple tasks and organizations. Of course, creating these experiences is not without challenges, including dealing with data and API inconsistencies. Using AI to translate data between different formats could be a game-changer, benefiting both companies and users alike. Definitely keep an eye on advancements in this area!

Coming up Next…

In future posts, I’ll explore how automation and journey-centered experiences can help with cost reduction and efficiency. Later in the series, I’ll talk about trends in personalization and engagement, plus discuss when it makes sense to seek outside expertise and guidance on your initiatives. Stay tuned!

Learn more about today’s business and tech trends — and join the discussion at an executive digital roundtable!

WWDC 2023: What Matters for Users, Developers, & Businesses

WWDC 2023 revealed a lot for users, developers, and businesses to look forward to! Let’s dive into the WWDC news and highlights for each group.

What should users be excited about from WWDC 2023?

Hardware Announcements

A new Macbook Air is available with a larger 15″ display. If you’re looking for a larger screen, this could be an attractive option. However, if you already have a Macbook Air 13″, it might not be worth upgrading at this time.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro are for power users and come with some serious performance updates. Processing intensive tasks like video editing can greatly benefit from this type of power. With its high price point though, it won’t fit into many people’s budgets or add the value needed to justify the cost.

iOS 17

iOS 17 will be available to users in Fall 2023 on devices that have the A12 or newer processor. Unfortunately, this means that devices like the iPhone X and 8 will not be able to update to iOS 17. Below are the major new features and benefits of iOS17.

  • NameDrop will allow you to easily exchange contact information using AirDrop.
  • Live voicemail will show you what someone is saying on your voicemail live, so that you can decide if it’s important enough to take the call immediately.
  • Autocorrect and dictation will be more accurate.
  • A new Journal app will provide smart suggestions to help you journal about your day.
  • Check In will allow you to tell friends or family when you’re heading home and automatically notify them when you get there. If you’re delayed, you can adjust your expected arrival time. If you don’t reach your destination, your loved ones will get a notification so they can check on you.

iPadOS 17

iPad is adding a customizable lock screen and live activities. The Health app is also now available on iPad. Furthermore, Apple significantly improved PDF editing, collaboration, and autofill.

macOS Sonoma

With macOS Sonoma, you’ll be able to add widgets anywhere on your desktop. Video conferencing will also allow video overlay, so that the speaker won’t lose video while presenting. Safari improved privacy and added profiles so that you can separate your work, home, and school experiences. Additionally, you can create a web app from any website to make your favorite sites easier to access!


Adaptive audio will allow you to stay present in your surroundings and adapt to them. Also, AirPlay is coming to select hotels. Soon, you may be able to play content from your devices easily on the TV in your hotel room.

watchOS 10

The UI improved for watchOS 10. This version will have better tracking for cycling and hiking and a few updates to Health including mental and vision health.

tvOS 17

tvOS now features a redesigned control center and offers the option to use memories as the screensaver for your TV. Most significantly, you will be able to use FaceTime on AppleTV using Continuity Camera from your iPhone or iPad.

Apple Vision Pro

Finally, the big reveal at the end of the WWDC 2023 keynote was a new piece of hardware: Apple Vision Pro. It is Apple’s response to an AR/VR experience known as Spatial Computing. Many iPad and iPhone apps will be available on the headset as windows with little changes required from the developers of those apps. You will have full control of where these apps appear in your space.

The design is well thought out. By and large, competing devices integrate batteries into the headset, making their headsets heavy and uncomfortable. Instead, Apple Vision Pro uses a cable that connects to an external battery pack. This choice significantly reduces their headset weight. The device also comes without external controllers, relying on eye and hand tracking for interactions. Eye tracking is kept private from apps and is processed at a system level to keep your interactions private and secure.

The specs are also above and beyond any of the devices already out there. With 23 million pixels across two panels, you get more than 4k resolution per eye. The processor that powers the device is Apple’s familiar M2 chip alongside a new R1 chip allowing for real time processing.

This device starts at $3499 USD which will be a large barrier to becoming a device seen in every home. Still, Apple has always focused on creating world class products and devices that truly change the world. Based on what I’ve seen today, the Vision Pro has the potential to change the world just as much as the iPhone has over the past 15 years.

What should developers be excited about from WWDC 2023?

Swift Macros make it easier than ever to add common functionality to your app without writing boilerplate or repeatable code.

C++ interoperability is now supported in the latest SDK

SwiftUI updates include those that developers most requested like improved animations, animated SF Symbols, and an easier way to manage state using the @Observed macro.

A Swift implementation of CoreData was one of the biggest reveals and something that developers have long been waiting for. SwiftData makes it easy to write your model code without having to repeat your data structures in a separate model object.

A new API TipKit was introduced that allows you to highlight features in your app to your users at the right time.

AVCapture performance improvements will make using the camera easier in your apps.

Developers are getting access to some new APIs including HDR, video conferencing, ScreenCaptureKit and Continuity Camera.

Updates to tools like App Store and StoreKit will make it easier than ever to create a consistent and familiar interface for products and subscriptions.

Xcode is getting some great improvements as well, including code completion improvements that are more aware of the code you are writing and suggesting more accurate modifiers or functions.

Test reports in Xcode got a huge overhaul and now contain much more detail and in-depth insights into issues in your app and its tests. You can step through points in your test and even reference an accompanying video to see exactly what went wrong that caused the test to fail.

Updates to Xcode cloud will make workflows 2 times faster and link speeds 5 times faster.

How to bring apps to the new visionOS is one of the main questions developers might have this year. Here are some of the things to know:

  • Apps can be made available on visionOS using SwiftUI, RealityKit and/or ARKit. Existing iPad and iOS apps will be available to be seen as a window in visionOS, but you must take into account that the screen size of that virtual window containing your app can be adjusted by the user. This means your layout must be able to accommodate a dynamic range of screen sizes.
  • You can also craft 3D scenes in visionOS using volumes. You can use RealityKit to show entities in 3D space, and combine it with the power of ARKit to understand your physical surroundings.
  • RealityKit is adopting the MaterialX open standard for geometry shaders which makes it easier to write complex shaders.
  • Developers will be able to preview their visionOS experiences using Xcode simulator. That functionality is coming to Xcode sometime later this month.

This week, there will be a total of 175 sessions that developers can watch to dig into all things new this year. 40 of those sessions alone are related to the new visionOS!

What should companies be excited about from WWDC 2023?


Now is the time for first mover advantage with AR on Vision Pro. This is the high risk, high reward play. The safer approach is to wait and see if there’s teething problems with the new tech. The “Pro” tag on Vision Pro likely means that a more affordable non-pro version will come at some point. I’d recommend holding off on buying them for the office unless you have a compelling need for them until a more affordable version is available.

The 15” MacBook Air is a good option for employees in need of more screen space without the need for more processing. Think people who are working with presentations, zoom, word processing, and spreadsheets all of the time.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro got upgrades for those who need high performance. However, there are only a few use cases where employee workflows require this type of power. Intensive video processing is one example.


On the software side of things, lots of new developer APIs were announced and lots of existing APIs have been improved.

If your app does image processing, it might be worth checking out Apple’s new HDR API.

StoreKit and SKAdNetwork are getting updates. If your app uses either of those frameworks for ads or in-app purchases, you may want to look further into what new features those frameworks will include.

A new framework called TipKit was released that will allow you to add timely tips for your users, helping them to easily discover new features in your app.

What else? What’s next after WWDC 2023?

The new features and updates announced Monday at WWDC 2023 include much more than the ones covered here, and we are excited to dive in deeper into each topic over the next few months to get a better understanding of how they will help us build better apps!

If you’d like to talk about any of the news coming out of WWDC in 2023 and how it impacts your business, reach out to the Robots & Pencils team at

This blog post was written by Andrew Erickson, an iOS Robot at Robots & Pencils.

WheelUI: An Alternative to Cross-Platform Development

You know that mobile is important to your business. Maybe you’re considering an idea for a new app or mobile strategy. Or, perhaps your existing app needs a refresh. Either way, you have a limited budget you need to use effectively. As you look to optimize costs, deciding between cross-platform and native app development will be one of the early decisions you need to make. Robots & Pencils has a solution: an alternative to cross-platform development that provides the best of both worlds.

Comparing Native and Cross-Platform Apps

If you’re unfamiliar or need a refresher, native app development uses first-party tools created and provided by Apple and Android. You build one app for Android and another for iOS, each using their own programming language. With native, you can ensure that each app meets UX standards specific to its platform. Natives apps can also access all the features that an Android or iOS device offers.

On the other hand, cross-platform development uses third-party tools as an added layer on top of the native tools. These tools let you build one app that works on both Android and iOS. The premise for using cross-platform is simple. Rather than developing one app for each platform, you build once, deploy on multiple platforms, and save money. Sounds great, right? The issue is that experts widely acknowledge native apps, not cross-platform apps, as providing the best user experience and greatest feature availability. A better user experience means higher user adoption. Higher adoption equals more business value and more return on your investment, which obviously is what you want.

The other concern is that the preferred choice of cross-platform tools changes frequently. This instability can make it hard to maintain cross-platform apps and find skilled cross-platform developers. Also, despite the promise of a single set of code, cross-platform tools often require the use of native code as well. As a result, cross-platform apps can have iOS and Android code in addition to the cross-platform tool. Ultimately, cross-platform apps may be cheaper to build at first. However, they are expensive to maintain and less attractive to users.

WheelUI: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

So, how can a budget-sensitive company provide the best possible user experience and utilize the full range of features on each platform to get the highest ROI? Enter WheelUI. Created by the mobile team at Robots & Pencils, WheelUI helps you build a native application on each platform for less total cost than cross-platform development. It’s the most affordable cross-platform development alternative out there!

How WheelUI Works as a Cross-Platform Development Alternative

The majority of a mobile app is often a handful of commonly used screens and UI components. Say the login view, menus, and a news feed, to name a few. This is where WheelUI comes in. WheelUI is an in-house R&P framework that provides common UI (user interface) screens and components for our clients.

All WheelUI components use native code. The code is Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android. Because WheelUI is native, the UX of each screen matches the platform. (Having screens that don’t match user expectations for iOS or Android is a common UX pitfall of cross-platform apps.)

Additionally, each WheelUI screen has already had the Pencil touch, with our talented UX and UI experts leading the design of these UI components. All WheelUI screens are also easily configurable to your color palette, font, and other brand needs, so that your brand still shines through in your app.

The major benefit WheelUI offers clients is that a team no longer needs to design or build each screen anew. This means that you can get the UX and feature benefits of native code for a much lower cost. And by saving money on those common screens, clients can apply a larger portion of the budget to creating custom code and UI for the unique features that makes their app stand out.

WheelUI Time & Cost Savings

Depending on how many of the WheelUI app components you use, we estimate up to 40% cost savings compared to a full custom native project. (Think–you’re saving on design, development, project management, QA, everything. It adds up!)

Many businesses expect cross-platform development to cut costs in half since it (in theory) requires one codebase instead of two. However, costs like design, QA, and project management are relatively equal between cross-platform and full custom native. Plus, because cross-platform apps are built on top of another software layer, oddities sometimes slow down development and increase total project cost. Based on our experience, cross-platform is more likely to save only around 20% from native development. Therefore, even when you add on custom development to a WheelUI project, you can still save money compared to a cross-platform project. You will have the budget to build that killer feature that elevates your app above the rest.

On top of cost savings, WheelUI also cuts your time to release. The WheelUI screens are built, thoroughly tested, and ready to go. All we need to do is load up your data. Using WheelUI as a cross-platform development alternative could cut as much as 40% off your total project timeline.

WheelUI vs Cross-Platform: Talent Availability and Maintainability

Cross-platform tools have shown themselves to be widely adopted for short periods of time. As the desire to use a specific cross-platform tool wanes, companies who built apps in those platforms have to decide whether to keep supporting the tool or rewrite their entire app. That’s a big risk to weigh if you’re considering cross-platform development.

Native code, which WheelUI uses, has shown itself to last. At R&P, we’ve supported native apps for 10 plus years with no signs of support ending. By keeping WheelUI native, we’re looking out for the long-term viability of our clients. On top of maintainability, the ephemeral nature of cross-platform tools has led to a lack of talent availability. Many developers are uninterested in mastering a platform that could end up disappearing within a handful of years. Comparatively, native iOS and Android developers are readily available, so you’ll have a much easier time finding a developer who can work on your native app built with WheelUI.

Getting Started with WheelUI

WheelUI keeps all the strengths of native code, but offers it at less cost than cross-platform or a full custom development project. WheelUI lets you prioritize your app user experience to maximize the business value of your app while also saving money and time. At R&P, we’re already using WheelUI in our own products.

It’s said that cross-platform is built to release and native is built to maintain, but we believe that WheelUI can do both.

To learn more and discuss your mobile strategy and pricing for app development with WheelUI, email us at

Robots & Pencils Announces Launch of Student Apps to Simplify and Elevate Learner Success

Led by newly appointed Head of Product Ryan Gialames, the student-centric mobile, web, and Slack apps powered by Salesforce focus on powering the learner journey and providing students with full wrap-around support

CLEVELAND, October 25, 2022 — Today, Robots & Pencils, a digital product company focused on transforming businesses with mobile, web, and frontier technologies, announced the release of its new education product, Student Apps. Concurrently, the company has appointed Ryan Gialames as Head of Product, Edtech, to lead and execute the ongoing strategy and design of Student Apps.

Student Apps provides students with a seamless, customized experience that supports each learner’s unique journey. Powered by Salesforce, Student Apps integrates backend systems, including student information systems and learning management system platforms, under a user-centered front end. This multi-app platform is a breakthrough in the educational technology field as its unique method of consolidating all student data eliminates the data silos that normally impede the ability of staff to support students.

“Student Apps is designed to meet the needs for institutions focused on providing full support to learners who would like to optimize their existing technological investments, unlock the power of Salesforce and Slack for education, build a journey unique to each learner through automation, connect learners to their community, and deliver innovative programs,” said Tracey Zimmerman, President and CEO of Robots & Pencils. “Our goal is to break current barriers and create new and innovative solutions that meet the needs of our clients in the current digital landscape.”

Student Apps has already had a successful trial run with Arizona State University. In 2019, ASU and Robots & Pencils partnered to find a way to streamline ASU’s technology in order to better communicate with students. Robots & Pencils created a Slack bot, now available as part of the Student Apps suite, that helps with the onboarding process and cuts down the amount of manual labor required to get students enrolled and engaged with the institution, driving better student outcomes.

“Universities often “ship the org chart”, with each department vying for the learner’s time and attention. Combine this with a landscape of disparate edtech technologies and the student experience suffers. Student Apps solve this problem, providing a set of tools to help learners manage the important tasks and milestones that will support their success and connecting them to those who can help, including staff and peers. ” said Gialames. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a forward-thinking company like Robots & Pencils to help universities and professional learning providers solve pressing matters and build the optimal learner experience.”

Effective immediately, Gialames has stepped into the role of Head of Product for the company’s education technology. In this role, he will be responsible for launching edtech products, such as Student Apps, and bringing them to market while also driving the future innovation of these products. Most recently Gialames served as the Sr. Director, UX/UI at Western Governors University. Previously, he served as the Director in Product Design at Robots and Pencils where he led product strategy and design across all education clients including Arizona State University, University of Texas, Texas Oncourse, and Trilogy Education which was acquired by 2U. Prior to joining Robots & Pencils, Gialames was the Senior Director of Product Strategy and UX at the Carnegie Mellon University backed edtech startup, Acatar, and was Manager of Online Student Experience at Education Management Corporation.

Student Apps is now available in the Salesforce Appexchange. The platform has an annual license fee and implementation service fees, and can be configured to suit the needs of the institution.

This rollout follows additional growth across industries for Robots & Pencils, who announced an investment from Salesforce Ventures and the company’s partnership with LunaYou, a women-centered maternal wellbeing program created to address the maternity crisis earlier this year.

To learn more about Robots & Pencils, please visit

Robots & Pencils Announces New Investment to Further Develop Slack’s Ecosystem

A long-standing partner of Slack, Robots & Pencils brings a myriad of knowledge on how organizations can best utilize Slack as well as offers unique solutions to challenges they may face.

CLEVELAND — April 26, 2022 — Robots & Pencils, a digital innovation and solutions firm focused on transforming businesses with mobile, web, and frontier technologies and strategies, announced today an investment from Salesforce Ventures. The investment comes as Slack, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2021, continues to bolster connections and partnerships with pioneering technology startups that help organizations maximize the combined Slack and Salesforce platform.

After many organizations made the necessary shift to remote work at the onset of the pandemic, Robots & Pencils has continued to grow at an accelerated pace as it helps clients transition from stop-gap solutions to building out thoughtful, holistic digital transformation projects. Over the last year, the company has grown its Salesforce and Slack consulting business by 70%, while key executive hires in the Consumer & Retail Goods and Financial Services sectors have helped bolster company growth by 40% overall. The investment will enable Robots & Pencils to accelerate growth of its unique capabilities in developing complex, integrated Salesforce and Slack solutions.

“It has been a fun and transformative journey working with both Slack and Salesforce, partnering closely to develop scalable and innovative solutions to drive impact across a wide array of industries,” said Tracey Zimmerman, CEO and President of Robots & Pencils. “This investment from Salesforce Ventures is a testament to our team’s early adoption and unique expertise with both platforms, and we look forward to the next phase in our partnership.”

With deep working knowledge of how to optimize both platforms, Robots & Pencils is uniquely positioned to help companies accelerate digital transformation, drive collaboration, and improve operational efficiency with custom Salesforce and Slack solutions. Robots & Pencils has a rich history and deep expertise with Slack, recognizing its potential as a transformative workplace tool early on and signing on as the company’s first official services partner in 2016.

In 2018, Slack acquired Missions, a powerful no-code solution developed by Robots & Pencils to make it easier for teams to automate processes and tasks in the platform. Today Missions is available to all Slack users and is integrated in the core Slack platform as Workflow Builder. As a Salesforce Consulting Partner and Registered Higher Ed Partner, Robots & Pencils has been designing and developing scalable and innovative Salesforce solutions across industries since 2014. Led by Daniel Peter, a seven-time Salesforce MVP with over 30 certifications, the Robots & Pencils team has developed custom solutions that allow companies like University of Texas, 2U and Sprinklr to push the boundaries of what’s possible with Salesforce.

“We are always looking to work with forward-thinking companies that are changing the ways companies think about work, collaboration and the ability to bring the digital HQ to life for our joint customers,’’ said Yolanda Wong, VP of Partner Investments at Salesforce. “We are excited to invest in Robots and Pencils as they expand their Slack solutions across industry. As early champions of the Slack platform they have established a strong perspective on how to help organizations leverage Slack as an agent of change and we look forward to seeing the ongoing innovation they bring to market.”

In January 2022, Robots & Pencils hired Todd Sbarro as chief operating officer to help scale the organization’s strategic growth initiatives across the Consumer & Retail Goods, Financial Services, and Education verticals. The company has created several new leadership roles over the years, strengthening its team to over 200 talented professionals across North America specializing in UX, Design, Mobile, Salesforce, Web, and more.

In the summer of 2022, Robots & Pencils will be launching “Operating Smarter with Salesforce and Slack,” a webinar series where the company’s in-house experts will break down how the platforms can be leveraged in a hybrid work setting. To learn more, please visit:

About Robots & Pencils

Established in 2009, Robots & Pencils is a digital innovation firm founded on the then-contrarian view that mobile would be more transformative than the Internet. Today, in an age of unprecedented technology acceleration, Robots & Pencils helps companies maintain a competitive advantage by developing new digital strategies and products focused on education, financial services, and retail & consumer goods. For more information, please visit

How ASU Achieved a Harmonious Student Experience With Slack Integrations

Arizona State University (ASU) is always looking for a way to better engage students.

“It’s our mission to help Sun Devils feel more connected to each other and the diversity of opportunities around them,” says CIO, Lev Gonick. “Slack has been a connective tissue across ASU, enabling deeper discussions and greater productivity in both formal and informal spaces.”

They have gone all in with Slack as their digital campus solution and this blog post is here to tell you all about it so that you have key takeaways to apply to your own institution.

A Brief Background on ASU

ASU has multiple campuses, along with thousands of online students who are located all over the country and the world. ASU has been recognized by US News & World Report as the country’s most innovative school and prides itself on graduating more than 27,000 thinkers and innovators each year.

Since so many of their students are enrolled digitally, ASU is constantly looking for better ways to engage their students online. Engagement is especially important during enrollment and the onboarding of new students.

Knowing that innovation is the backbone of success, ASU knew they needed a technical solution to step in and improve how they communicate with students.

ASU’s Previous Student/Success Coach Process

ASU aimed to streamline their process for admitting and enrolling students as well as keeping them engaged and successful throughout their school year.

They have a student network where they set new students up for success and also provide a way for students to network with each other. ASU really wanted to build a sense of community at their universities.

A lot of work went into keeping students engaged especially because ASU’s students are all over the country, not just in Arizona. Networking and engagement relies more on digital workflows than a lot of other schools.

The previous platform relied on Facebook authentication, but Facebook is dwindling in usage for the college demographic so this became problematic.

Why ASU Decided to Work With Robots & Pencils

ASU and Robots & Pencils started the initiative in 2019 after getting fed up with the complicated way of communicating with their students.

To avoid relying on Facebook or other social networks, ASU wanted to find a way to use their own single sign on technology to communicate with students.

In February of 2020, after some beta testing, ASU’s new program launched, utilizing Slack as the communication hub and cutting down on all of the digital clutter from their old workflows.

Robots & Pencils not only was willing to create a tailored solution for ASU but they also helped re-imagine their workflows. Companies find that they need a healthy balance of technical and creative so Robots & Pencils often creates solutions but doesn’t stop there — we also help with the visual and planning aspects of implementing something new.

Slack wasn’t designed to be a social network or a student portal, so ASU needed a partner like Robots & Pencils to customize Slack and tailor it to their needs in order to create a space that was useful and accessible to their students.

The Digital Solution

Robots & Pencils implemented a streamlined way for ASU to connect students with other students and stay engaged throughout their college career.

Broken down by channels in Slack, Robots & Pencils helped ASU create spaces for students characterized by student type, campus and college groups.

In June of 2020, Robots & Pencils implemented a Slack bot that helped with the onboarding process and cut down the amount of manual labor that was going on to get students signed up and engaged in the portal. It also automatically puts students into the right channels and simplifies moderation within the community.

The Slack bot keeps onboarding organized and automated so it has resulted in a lot of time savings for ASU staff and eliminated frustrations for the students. The bot also allows ASU employees to message students based on student type, major, and other traits so the communication process has gotten a lot easier. Student Success Coaches can even quickly look up information about each student so that they provide learners with better, more personalized support.

How Slack Integrations Transformed ASU’s Student Success

Once ASU transitioned to Slack in 2019, they were able to streamline their student engagement and instead of using 4 tools, they consolidated everything into Slack.

Once the new Slack processes were created, ASU saw the amount of active students in their portal jump from 8,000 a year to 15,000 a year, showing that students have been responding well to these new workflows.

What Does This Example of Digital Transformation Mean for My Brand?

As this example shows, there is always a better way to do things when you have the right technology partner. If you think parts of your process are too time consuming or you rely on too much manual labor, there is definitely a solution out there for you.

Slack doesn’t have to be just for internal communications; when structured properly, it can be a communication hub if you’re willing to think outside the box.

What areas of your external and internal workflows could be improved? We’d love to have a great chat with you about it in the comments below!