With all the focus on consumer facing apps, it’s easy for business owners to miss the fact that mobile apps are equally suited to solving internal business problems. And many articles about mobile apps emphasise the business benefits of consumer facing apps, adding to the idea that all businesses need a mobile app for their customers only.
But there are many internal problems a mobile app can solve too, and even though this will sometimes come about as a result of an app developed for a business’s customers, there are many businesses that will benefit financially from an app developed for internal use only.
Task And Meeting Management
There are a large number of publicly available web and mobile apps for task, time, and calendar management. But for them to be of any use in a business environment everyone needs to be using the same app, and in the same way. Creating your own internal app to do the same can seem a little like trying to reinvent the wheel, but it is useful in that everyone uses the same tool, and in more or less the same way. In order to appeal to the largest audience possible, third-party apps include a host of features that are used by some people but not by others. With an internal app you can limit the number of features to those that are actually needed, and useful to all, including the business as a whole.
It’s not uncommon for some tasks to have to pass through a chain of people, with each completing one or more sub-tasks, before handing off to the next person. Consolidating this process makes it easier for everyone involved to keep track of the task, and to identify delays that impact the completion of the task.
The number of organisations that now include distributed or remote teams and offices has grown significantly. It might be something as simple as a sales team that visit clients across a region or country, but it could also be a whole department – such as a development team – that is based in another country, and time-zone.
An internal app can consolidate the distribution of all internal communications, document repositories, and as noted in the previous point, help manage tasks. This can be especially useful when certain team members don’t work the same hours as the rest of the business.
Employee Onboarding and Training
Leading on from the previous point, working with distributed teams can make it more difficult to onboard new employees, and also to manage the training and development of all employees. A mobile app can ease this by implementing an onboarding process for all new employees to follow, much like a regular app uses onboarding to introduce new users to features and guide them through using the app. A stepped approach helps ensure new employees aren’t overwhelmed with information, but also allows the company to track what stages of the onboarding process each new employee has completed.
And when you have employees spread across the country, or the world, exposing them all to the same training at the same time would be a lot easier with an app, which can incorporate mini tests to check for understanding, and even demos that employees need to complete. And again it makes it simpler for the company to track who has and hasn’t completed training critical to each employees role.
One of the biggest challenges faced by large businesses is internal communication. Email offered a huge leap forward from communicating via telephone and fax, but with the large volume of email employees receive each day, it’s also quite easy for important communications to be missed amongst all the ‘noise’. With an internal app all critical business communications can be redirected through the app, ensuring they aren’t missed as easily as an email.
The same applies to data reporting, which is what Cumberland Farms, a US retailer, did with their mobile app. Employee productivity across the whole business improved by more than 28 percent following the introduction of Cumberland Farms’ internal app. Data critical to the Operations, Safety, and Maintenance departments was now captured, processed, and analysed in real-time.
Customer service is another significant challenge for modern businesses, with a number of channels now available through which customers can interact with the business. Think social media, email, telephone, and even chat apps. Managing all of these, and responding to customer queries as quickly as possible, can be simplified through an internal app that directs digital queries to the right department or person, regardless of the channel it came in through. And the emergence of chatbots makes it easier too to automatically respond to certain frequently asked questions.
Swedbank implemented a virtual assistant – Nina – to automatically respond to certain questions, and ‘she’ now handles in excess of 40,000 queries a month, freeing the bank’s service agents to deal with more difficult queries, and actual sales.
Most large couriers and shipping companies have a customer facing app which allows customers to easily request a collection, or to track a shipment. Some extend this further by having customers electronically sign for deliveries, which makes it easier – and faster – for the sender to see that their shipment has been received. These features can be replicated in an internal app for businesses that manage their own deliveries, so instead of having to wait until a driver returns in order to capture an updated trip sheet and to see which deliveries didn’t take place, or took an extended amount of time to complete, all the information can be captured, tracked, and managed electronically, and in real-time. It doesn’t only assist in cutting down on paper, it also speeds up management and analysis of delivery problems.
Mobile technology has allowed disruptive on-demand platforms like Uber and AirTasker to change how companies track and analyse logistics and overall efficiency. With the implementation of a mobile app, any company with a logistics or fleet management component can now retrieve valuable data – such as location and time, distance travelled, and start and end points – in real-time, eliminating the need for costly and complicated hardware. This doesn’t only benefit couriers and delivery service industries, but almost any industry that relies on some form of fieldwork being performed by employees.
Employee Health Checks
Company culture can be heavily influenced by the mood or morale of employees, but the larger the company, the more difficult it is to track mood and morale. An internal mobile app can help companies overcome this by getting employees to rate their day, or complete a brief weekly survey relating to their respective departments or projects they are working on. This doesn’t replace any review process a company has in place, but can provide valuable insight into employee motivation and morale, which could be influencing behaviour and performance, allowing for faster interventions to be put in place. There are web apps that already do this, but an internal mobile app means no-one outside of the company has access to private company data, but also allows employees to complete the survey or rating action even when they aren’t at work. You could even use push notifications to remind employees to rate their day, or complete the survey.
Having a sales team that always performs at the top of their game is critical, but achieving this usually requires a lot of supervision and monitoring, which – if done too aggressively – can seem like micro-management. A mobile app can change this by providing near real-time insights into the locations of sales teams, along with tracking of sales, and even form completion efficiency. Implemented properly, it can even drive healthy competition between teams, by gamifying certain aspects of the sales process and rewarding the sales people – or team – that performs the best at achieving goals, or completing tasks. Much like how with many health trackers reward users with badges for various achievements.
New technology always influences how businesses get things done, and the rapid adoption of smartphones and mobile apps around the world means that many businesses haven’t had a chance to properly assess how an app could solve an internal business problem. And while the Apple and Google app stores are both filled with millions of apps, a custom solution offers better control of the data, along with being designed to provide solutions to problems that are sometimes common among all businesses within a specific industry, and sometimes quite unique to only a handful.