It comes as no surprise that mobile apps continue to rise in popularity and are a key part of how organisations serve their customers. From ordering takeaways to checking bank balances, most consumers have become used to interacting with service providers, such as banks, on the go. However, while organisations have been quick to use apps to target customers, many have been much slower to adopt this technology when it comes to their own employees.

Apps designed specifically for employees to use on the job can be an excellent way to improve the way they work and collaborate. Some businesses are using apps that make it easier for employees to share and review documents. This frees them up from trawling through five different versions of track changes so they can be far more productive. Others are developing apps for ‘front-of-house’ workers which allow them to access information without having to revert to ‘back-office’ desktop devices. Apps can even be designed to fulfil specific sector needs. For example, mobile case workers now turn to apps to help them record case information out in the field.

Bespoke apps allow businesses to focus on the tools that are actually used and cut through all the different capabilities provided in software, such as with Excel. They also allow employees flexibility as they can use them via mobiles or tablets when they are on the go. However, many businesses are still reluctant to consider designing apps for their employees as they think it will too expensive or too much trouble to design. But this is not the case. If you do it right, it’s possible to have an app ready in just a few months and it doesn’t need to be costly.

Organisations that wish to ensure that the app is fit for purpose should establish upfront the minimum the app needs to do to serve its purpose. Usually you can deliver 80 per cent of the functionality in 20 per cent of total project, with the rest of the time spent adding extra functionality. The key is to undertake small and agile pilots out in the field and have a very clear view of what business benefits the app will bring. Keep a laser sharp focus on what the app is for, rather than becoming distracted by trying to make the app do too much.

As these apps are not customer facing, there can be a temptation to focus on the content and ignore how it looks. However, organisations need to put user experience at the heart of the design. Enterprise apps should still be appealing and well designed, as this will encourage employees to use them. It’s also important for it to be designed in such a way that someone is able to use it within second of first picking it up. These apps need to be extremely intuitive, as users want to be able to duck in and out of them quickly.

The final hurdle that businesses must cross is making sure their app is suitable for mobile. You’d think this would be a given, but many apps only work on the corporate network and lose functionality when they are out and about. As office-based, 9-5pm jobs become less common, apps are an excellent way of keeping employees connected and productive even on the go. Businesses should not be afraid of entering the world of bespoke mobile apps. They do not need to be prohibitively expensive or time intensive. Creating a targeted app can help employees become more productive and fit in with their needs. By engaging in a small and focused pilot, it’s possible to have “appy” employees in no time.


Kevin Knowles

Kevin Knowles has 30 years experience across many sectors, primarily as a senior freelance consultant and interim manager for Financial Services blue chip clients across a broad spectrum of disciplines from strategy, business transformation, programme and change management through to directorships within professional services, recruitment, Internet start-ups and property. Now, Kevin is Managing Partner at consultancy services start-up Cavendish Wood, a new consultancy bringing years of experience and expertise together to offer a vibrant proposition to clients.