The textbook definition of workforce apps is applications that grant employees access to corporate information and internal system from a mobile device or access point outside the office. How that actually translates into reality varies by company. As to their relevance, well, keep reading and see for yourself whether apps are a good idea or not.
If you had asked me whether mobile apps would make an employee more productive a month ago, I would have laughed and said apps are a waste of time, cellphones are basically glorified leashes and that mobile technology harms more than it benefits. Then, about a month ago, I was running around on errands with my wife and a potential job came in on my email. A frantic 20 minutes of trying to logon to the website where the job was posted left me raging at my phone and begging for a simpler way. As a freelancer, my livelihood depends on being quicker than the competition to secure that job. If that website had even had a basic email-style app, 20 minutes would have been reduced to 5. So when I read the Forrester report about mobile apps being a necessity to competing in the modern business world, well, they said it better than I could have.
Apps aren’t going away, so embrace them
Make no mistake about it, mobile apps, tablets, smartphones – you name it – they’re here to stay. There are even apps specific to certain business, such as apps for workforce management. Businesses that take advantage of this technology will succeed. When I bought my Macbook Air last year, the clerk who checked me out at the Apple Store used what looked like his smartphone or at least was very clearly a mobile device. The clerk emailed the pdf receipt to me after asking if I wanted it via email, the receipt was in my inbox a minute later. Apple has been offering E-receipts at their stores since 2005, but this was the first time I encountered the concept. You could say I was surprised and impressed. Then again, Apple is responsible for the iPhone, so it should be no surprise that their work culture has embraced apps and mobility.
Contrast this with my experience with some cellphone providers I’ve had to deal with where I had to wait in line for a half hour, not have the problem solved and walk out of their store completely dissatisfied, whereupon they lost my business at the first opportunity.
Service businesses must start catering to the already acceptable way that consumers are behaving – instant access to information, shopping online and access to job opportunities online even from a mobile device. There is an ever-growing list of apps that can help them be more efficient and even keep their employees on track to ensure customer satisfaction.
According to this infographic, the rapid rise of iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices has fueled the mad rush of venture funding for mobile apps. And ¾ of these apps will be for enterprise service, 80% will be integrated with social networking, and half will integrated with cloud application platforms. Even though these figures are from a few years ago, the trend is obvious.
For businesses to succeed, employees need to have the most basic apps – email, calendar, contacts – at the minimum. If the company can provide more apps, such as connection to their customer database, timesheets and group chat then even better. There are certainly enough applications out there that will do it like in this article that names the top 22 mobile messaging apps.
Timesheet apps make payroll less of a headache
One constant challenge businesses face is that of payroll and employee hours. While I’m a freelancer and (unfortunately) never really off the clock, I can say from other places I’ve worked that this was always an issue. I can distinctly recall timesheets being issued 3-4 times before payroll could be processed and people paid. This was especially true at the insulation company I worked for – timesheets were a nightmare because of how employees were paid (not necessarily by the hour) and the somewhat random hours the employees worked at.
Employers can take control of the problem via a mobile app they can install on employee phones that will automatically generate timesheets. The apps can be tailored to a company’s needs to simply allow remote clocking in and out or even to be a complicated system that keeps records of breaks and travel times, automatically updates ERP and CRM systems, and even points out discrepancies between planned work days and what actually transpired during that day. ClickSoftware’s short e-book about this constant challenge shows how to implement the use of apps and how they can transform the way companies do business.
Crowdsourcing employee knowledge with database apps equals better service
For service providers, ClickSoftware provides a mobile chat app that is called SHOUT. This app enables field workers, managers and dispatchers to communicate with each other in real-time. Since it is specifically for service providers, it is linked with the scheduling and customer information database so workers in the field can have access to everything they need for better service.
If the company has employees constantly travelling around, then an expense reporting and budget app is essential (I happen to like the “You Need a Budget” app). Otherwise the accounting department is going to have a field day entering the information from all of those receipts (I know, I’ve translated some of them), as will IT when employees start using third party apps that don’t meet their standards of security. Other apps that could help businesses include schedule updating apps, GPS apps and even apps that handle basic administrative tasks such as clocking-in/out or submitting reports. In addition, not jumping on the mobile app bandwagon could cause your business to suffer, especially if the competition has embraced apps and successfully implemented them into their operations.
In the modern business world, where everyone is constantly connected to the internet from their phones, apps are kind of important. Say you’re at a meeting with a client at their offices. Imagine the embarrassment if you need to look up information for a client but can’t find it because your employer didn’t think an app with access to the company system was important and the client, being more tech savvy, finds the information for you. Avoid it by embracing apps.
As for my experience at the beginning of this post, I found out that website doesn’t even have a mobile version of their site – and that is why it took so long to get a simple email address from a website (something I really don’t understand, considering the nature of the business). I managed to get my quote for the job submitted and I got the job. But that’s a different discussion for another blog post.