Tomorrow’s workplace will have many apps

Going mobile have been the big initiative for the past couple of years with apps for work arriving on many smartphones, including Google Suite, Microsoft Office, LinkedIn, Slack, WhatsApp and much more.

In addition, we’ve seen the rise of software vendors like Staffbase,  who offers an employee app for internal communication and more.

As multiple apps become the new normal, what are the lessons learned from those leading the way? In this posting, I’ll share some of my takeaways on this topic from recent J. Boye group meetings.

How many apps are you using to get work done today?

The idea of just one single app for work might seem tempting, but think about the many different tasks this app would have to cater for. This would be an uberapp, that would be so bloated with features that it would impractical to both use and maintain.

I’ll admit to a love – hate relationship with apps. They tend to drain battery and come with privacy concerns, so I try to restrict the number of apps on my smartphone to a bare minimum.

As we’ve familiarised ourselves with smartphones, a few different apps for a few different tasks might not seem that bad, but how many apps do we really need to get work done?

janus-boye-smartphone-january17A quick look at my smartphone reveals that the ones I’m using in a normal working day:

  1. Dropbox for access to files
  2. Facebook Messenger as a communication platform
  3. Google Calendar to handle my meetings and tasks   
  4. Google Docs to work on documents
  5. Google Mail for my e-mail                 
  6. Google Sheets to work on spreadsheets
  7. Google Slides to work on presentations                               
  8. LinkedIn to prepare for meetings and as a communication platform
  9. Slack for internal messaging
  10. Twitter on social media

There’s also a few work apps that I’ll use weekly or at least frequent enough that I’ve kept them:

  1. Google AdWords to give me insights on campaigns and keywords
  2. to book hotels for business trips
  3. Rejseplanen to get around Denmark
  4. SAS to check-in online for my flights with Scandinavian airlines
  5. Uber to get from A to B when it is convenient

Tomorrow’s workplace will have more apps

Whether you like it or not, the direction of travel at the moment is toward more apps. Here are a few examples:

  • Wictor Wilen from Avanade was a guest in one of our recent group meetings in Copenhagen, where he shared that Microsoft for Office 365 so far has 9 apps with more in the making
  • A large Swiss member in the J. Boye network had 30 mobile apps for internal usage in the beginning of 2016 with 60 more in the planning.

Depending on your role and responsibilities, you might need additional and specific apps, e.g. with access to important guidelines or latest sales numbers.

In addition to the company internal apps, there’s also the numerous external apps for various use cases such as loyalty, marketing and self-service. Perhaps it makes for your organisation to build different apps for your customers or partners?

What you need to know about apps in the workplace

Here’s five points where I’ve noticed that J. Boye members have been busy writing in their notebooks at group meetings:

Think about adoption from the beginning

How will you ensure that employees will actually use the app? Training sessions for a new app seem counterintuitive when most are perfectly capable of downloading and using apps for private usage with no training required, yet offering training might be the right thing to do at work.

Some of J. Boye members like T-Systems MMS have launched their apps at corporate events to ensure widespread usage, while others have coupled sizable communication and internal marketing campaigns around their new app.

Apps require constant maintenance

A key learning from experts who have recently visited group meetings, including both software vendors like Staffbase and also app developers at House of Code, is to not underestimate the maintenance required for each app.

It’s comparatively simple to build an app and some even have in-house IT resources to pull it off, but with the frequent updates from Apple and Google, you need to constantly maintain your app to make sure it stays working.

Privacy is a real concern

I briefly mentioned my own privacy concerns earlier on, but this is naturally a big thing for most employees.

Today most countries have regulation on how to deal with employee data and with the arrival of GDPR in Europe, you have to cater for requirements like the right to be forgotten.

Whether you embark on custom apps or standard apps from vendors, you need to make privacy a part of your design.

One example of this is the usage of location as a feature, which might seem the good reason to build an app instead of a mobile website. A scenario could be finding the nearest canteen or printer, but few employees and workers councils in Germany and elsewhere will approve the location tracking of employees the comes with this.

Voluntary of mandatory?

Are you planning to make using the apps mandatory or leave it up to employees to download and use the apps if they so please?

Either way requires adequate agreements with the employees and fair amounts of planning and governance.

What happens if the smartphone is forgotten somewhere?

This is one of the typical questions and not everyone has a good answer to it. Smartphones are forgotten everywhere every day. Cafes, trains and airport lounges to just name a few places.

Let’s say the company apps are on your smartphone and you forget the smartphone somewhere.

Depending on how authentication happens in your apps, this could be a real security risk. Does a stranger now have direct access to financial reporting or confidential news? Some organisations have rolled out device management solutions so that smartphones can be wiped remotely in situations like this, while others require constant login for certain apps.

Learn more about apps as a part of the workplace of the future

You can learn from the best at our upcoming masterclass on Workplace of the Future in Amsterdam on 30 March. One of the speakers on the program is Susann Wanitschke from T-Systems MMS who will share their success story with the roll-out of their employee app.

T-Systems MMS also has a relevant and recently published whitepaper. See Enterprise messaging – an integrated part of work.

Finally, please do share your learnings below and help others navigate towards tomorrow’s workplace.

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