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Using enterprise mobile apps to boost productivity

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In this era of mobility, companies can empower employees with apps that can enhance their efficiency and bring in significant cost savings. However, there are certain things enterprises should keep in mind before implementation

By Ajay Kaul

In today’s workplace, introducing new strategies and implementing new practices to make sure a business stays competitive and insightful is essential. To be more productive and efficient at work, business leaders and employees need the ability to access information on-the-go, communicate faster, make decisions on the fly, manage their day-to-day work and schedules and stay up-to-date on what is happening around their businesses. Mobile phones have now been transformed into powerful computing devices that are always on and connected – this has led to an era of mobile apps that provide solutions to help decision-makers and employees stay informed of the latest technology and boost their productivity and efficiency levels to meet the high demands of the workforce.

Mobile apps have carved out a completely new approach to working more effectively and efficiently. Adopting mobile apps in an enterprise not only boosts productivity, it also improves collaboration across teams. Using mobile apps is one of the most popular trends in computing tools for users across the globe. Gartner predicts that in two years, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion; and thanks to the evolution of cognizant computing, by 2017, mobile users may provide personalized data streams to at least 100 apps and services every day.

What are enterprise mobile apps?
An enterprise application is the term used to describe software programs that a business would use to solve enterprise problems. These applications are typically designed to interface or integrate with other enterprise applications used within the organisation, and to be deployed across a variety of networks securely.

“Mobile-first” apps are built specifically to meet the needs of a workforce that requires real-time access to collaborate on projects and sync with the cloud to share files through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Analysts estimate that 50 percent of business applications will be accessible on mobile devices in the near future. (IFS)

What apps are trending now?
With more enterprises functioning in the mobile office space, there’s a growing need for applications to help employees connect to the network and accomplish their expected duties. There are mobile-first apps popular today that perform a variety of functions to help employees do their jobs efficiently, from nearly anywhere.

Some examples of popular mobile-first enterprise apps that help boost productivity are:

File sharing: Apps like Dropbox allow you to sync, share and access files securely.

Manage documents quickly with e-signature apps such as DocuSign’s E-signature, which lets you sign, store or send electronic documents securely; and Adobe EchoSign for iOS allows users like travelling sales reps to send and sign contracts.

Note taking:
Share and keep track of meeting notes and action items with apps like Evernote, a multi-platform note-taking app that allows for more efficient collaboration.

Virtual collaboration:
Mobile offices mean fewer meetings happen in person. Apps like Skype allow users to make video and voice calls to anyone else on Skype, as well as allow file sharing and instant messaging.

Business card and receipt scanning: Apps like Business Card Reader or ABBYY allow users to scan, store and access data from business cards received, or capture data from receipts, making expense tracking and reporting easier with optical character recognition.
Managing customer relationships: Salesforce is focused on customer relationship management that allow sales representatives to access contact details and account history for their customers while on the road or during sales pitches.

Managing expenses: Manage business expenses on the go with apps like Expensfy that keeps track of business expenses and mileage and InDinero, which helps a business track cash flow and manage day-to-day finances.

Enterprise app stores emerge
Employees are using more enterprise mobile devices with mobile-first apps to make their daily work life easier. This means increased mobile device management (MDM) by enterprises will soon call for more adoption of enterprise app stores that will give employees access to company-approved apps. Organisations are increasingly investing in creating enterprise app stores for Android, iOS and Windows devices. These enterprise app stores are meant to host the apps the company decides are best suited (and tested) relevant to its business model.

Mobile devices, apps and cloud services create opportunities
The convenience of mobile devices and the apps employees use have several benefits in terms of efficiency, productivity and cost savings for a company. One survey suggested that the use of mobile apps designed to help employees get work done increased productivity by 45 percent. The same study revealed that operational efficiency rose to 44 percent when employees had the use of enterprise mobile apps (Aberdeen). Some of the benefits of mobile apps to an organisation include:

Saving time – Using mobile apps to manage job duties and enterprise functions saves nearly an hour a day of an employee’s time handling administrative tasks, research and drive time. This directly results in saving time for higher valued work for employees and saving money for the company.

Access and availability of data – Not only can employees access information on the fly, companies can generate and capture critical business information seamlessly through networks.

Standing out from competitors – Stay updated on the most recent industry trends and what competitors are doing at all times, instant communication with clients, customers and colleagues, responding to urgent requests, taking calls, solving problems quickly and accessing company resources are services customers are coming to expect from vendors more each day.

Maintaining office productivity – Keep up with emails, share documents, virtually attend meetings or conferences and gain direct access to network resources. Employees never miss a day, even when they’re not at their home bases.
Engaging employees – Mobility makes it more convenient for employees to be engaged, enhancing timeliness and connectivity, which results in more efficient, streamlined processes.

Reducing costs – When more enterprise apps and functions are hosted in the cloud, managing file sharing and networks are less costly.
How do employees benefit from enterprise mobile apps?

Employees with mobile enterprise applications benefit from the convenience of handheld devices; being able to manage their professional and personal tasks with ease – whether they are travelling, working from home, out to lunch or at a meeting, employees have  immediate access to  important information. In fact, research suggests that 55 percent of those surveyed use their personal smartphone for work purposes, which indicates that more employees are willing to work during off-work times using their own devices in increasing numbers (Telework). While mobile connectivity may seem like a burden to the workforce, overall, employees say they benefit from an increased work/life balance and satisfaction with flexible work schedules because they can easily work from any location.

What to consider prior to implementation
As with everything, certain protocols should be set in place when implementing enterprise mobile apps into a company’s business operations. Some areas to consider include:

Data Security – Public Wi-Fi is often insecure, so others may be able to access the company’s private data and resources. Attaining a private Wi-Fi is one solution.

BYOD – Employees using unauthorized devices to work results in a potential risk. IT departments should be looped in to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, and set measures to protect proprietary data.

Connectivity issues – These issues can come about depending on location and how much data is being used within a plan; ultimately slowing productivity.

Data loss or theft – This goes along with BYOD policies that manage mobile data on devices, wiping them clean of private company-owned data when a breach occurs.

Malware or virus attacks – Additional practices have to be put in place to protect the company’s local and cloud data from intruding programs.

All of these risks present the need for IT departments to create and enforce strong governance policies for mobile devices and the enterprise mobile apps that employees use.

Embracing mobility
Organisations should utilize the capabilities of enterprise mobile apps to the fullest. Company leaders and IT departments must study how these apps can increase productivity, reduce costs and provide better service for the business. Choose technology services based on what is compatible with the company’s needs, uses and experience. Learn to maximize the benefits of the device, while keeping an open mind and a watchful eye on potential risks. To provide the most benefit to an enterprise mobile app-driven workforce, security and productivity should be the primary goal of the both IT department and each business user.

Ajay Kaul is Managing Partner, AgreeYa Solutions.

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