By Adam Zouak on October 11, 2020
4 minute read

Having a mobile app for your workforce can be a great way to extend your reach. However, if not properly considered, it can be one of your biggest regrets. Let’s break down the top three things to consider.

#1 – Death by Features

Knowing the goal that you need your mobile app to achieve is vital. It’s easy to think having more features is better. If you could bring an entire Intranet plus the equivalent of Facebook into everyone’s hands, that’s a great thing, isn’t it? The problems start with an avalanche of newness, a high learning burden, and people can feel overwhelmed as they start getting notified for all manner of things going on. This can quickly erode confidence and trust in “the company” and make people disengage.

With more features comes more complexity, and mobile devices, given their form factor, are great for some things and not for others. I wouldn’t want to do video editing on my phone, for example.

Figuring out what functionality is critical to your goals is critical and making sure your mobile app vendor gives you the ability to toggle features on and off is huge. Start simple, get your people’s trust, and then consider whether you want to turn on another feature. Build a rhythm of change, adding things as you go, giving people time to digest the changes that are happening.

#2 – Ease of Access

It’s vital to think through the user experience of your different types of users from the point where they are told about the mobile app to the point they are able to use it. Are they going to need to download it from an app store? Is that the public one or from a company’s private one? What aligns with your corporate IT policy? Are there union or other employment rules that block putting such a mobile app on people’s phones without some explicit consent agreement?

Now let’s turn to logging in. If your people are going to need to remember different credentials (usernames and passwords) for their company email vs the mobile app, the barrier to usage is going to be high. People are going to get confused, forget, and if they have to contact different people for resetting corporate passwords versus mobile app passwords, frustration is going to run high.

For users who don’t have a company login account, don’t assume that “just giving them one username and password to remember will be no big deal.” That will be a lot more than they were used to doing for work. If they go away for vacation and come back, are they going to remember it? Especially if they aren’t using it to login every day.

This is where having a mobile app that supports social logins can make a huge difference. For systems like Sparrow, we support people using their existing username and password from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, and other social places. These are usernames and passwords that they already know and use often, so logging into the mobile app will be easy. Ones like Google and Apple can be fully integrated into the phone’s security system (facial scan or thumbprint), making no actual password needed.

Unfortunately, not all mobile apps support having a mix of corporate users (using Azure Active Directory or similar system) and having social users as well. Make sure to check. Sparrow (link to Sparrow website), for the record, handles all of that and makes sure to treat those social users as first-class citizens.

#3 – Check Your Usage Assumptions

All because everyone has a phone doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be willing to use a mobile app for work purposes. The most obvious reason is the realities of having a multi-generational workforce (see our recent post). Having multiple channels is important to reaching everyone the way they prefer to be reached, but some folks will buck the trend or assumptions about their generation.

I know several people, including one who was a member of my team, who are in their twenties, and don’t like the idea of having anything work-related on their phone. My team member turned off notifications for the work-related apps that they absolutely had to have on their phone. Outside of work hours the phone was silent, and during work hours if they stepped away from their laptop, they were unreachable unless you phoned them because 95% of the time those notifications stayed off.

It’s essential to figure out what the potential reach of your mobile app will be (see our recent post about doing that) and understand where the mobile app fits into your portfolio. Having a mobile app isn’t a communications strategy, just like having other channels such as an Intranet isn’t one either. Also, what seems to work for one organization won’t necessarily work for yours, so make sure to understand your workforce and have the analytics you need to assess their effectiveness. In our Sparrow platform, we natively handle many channels and provide those critical insights to know what’s working, why, and how.

The Right Mobile Solution

In the end, like any decision that affects our people, we need to make sure we’ve got a good fit in terms of channels, that we identify our influencers to help give us early feedback and later to help us get it spread, and that we have the metrics to objectively tell us if it’s working.

Today there’s a lot of options for mobile, and you might have multiple mobile solutions to connect with all of your workforce. For those using Microsoft Teams, Teams mobile might be the best fit, whereas for others, maybe a branded-mobile app like Sparrow has is needed. And most importantly, you should have an omni-channel platform that allows you to publish once and get it out on all of your channels, including mobile, with one click. Increasing the workload to take care of mobile is a step in the wrong direction. This is why we made omni-channel publishing a cornerstone feature of Sparrow.

When it comes to mobile apps: know what you need, know its likely effect on your people, find your champions, and good luck.

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With over 40 years in Corporate Communications and Technology, we decided to build a platform that was entirely focused on corporate communications across all channels. Years ago, such systems were built for Marketing and transformed their world, giving them insights and capabilities that made them at least 10x more effective. Now, it’s Corporate Communications’ turn. We’d love to connect and hear if Sparrow can help transform your comms world. Sparrow – Built for CommunicatorsBook a conversation with us today.  

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