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    What You Should Look for When Choosing an IWMS That Offers Mobile Apps

    James McDonald

    Communication is an essential part of life, particularly in the business world. The ability to effectively connect with colleagues and customers is, arguably, the single most important business tool you have.

    Remember the days of pagers and bag cell phones? Boy have we come a long way since then! Over the last decade, workplace trends and technology have expanded our options for communication more than we ever imagined possible, making it easier and more efficient to use our smart phones for correspondence than any other tool. In fact, there are now more mobile phones on the planet than there are TVs. There are 6.8 billion people on the planet. 5.1 billion of them own a cell phone, while only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. Those are some pretty staggering numbers.

    Smart phones and tablets have broken down the barriers of time and space, offering us the ability to work and communicate with our colleagues whenever the need arises. Armed with this increased mobility, enterprises are realizing the benefits through a more productive and engaged workforce. It only makes sense then, that those looking to invest in an IWMS should carefully consider the mobile options available before making a final decision.

    I know, yet another component to consider when choosing your workplace management tool. Read on for more details on what you should be looking for in a mobile app solution.

    Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Sites

    Mobile devices have opened up a whole new world for us, both professionally and personally. Want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow in Seattle? Or what flights are leaving Dallas airport next month? The answer is right at your fingertips. Need to email a question to a client? No problem. Just pull out your device and type away.

    IWMS_Mobile_device_cover.jpgDepending upon your exact needs, you can do almost anything from your mobile device. But there are a couple options for how you complete your tasks; and each option comes with limitations.

    Your first option is a mobile website. A mobile website is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a website that has been optimized for mobile browsing and can be accessed directly through a phone’s web browser. There are both advantages and disadvantages to utilizing mobile sites. They are typically a “version” of a primary website and are designed for use on any mobile platform. Utilizing a mobile site is effective for quick searches or for executing actions you don’t regularly perform; but you are limited in capabilities. Since they are designed for use with all mobile devices, they aren’t written in native code, so performance can be an issue. Unlike mobile apps, you’re also limited in which phone features can be accessed from the site.

     

    Your second option is a mobile application. Mobile apps are written in a native language, which means they are designed for a specific type of mobile device. This makes the tool more agile, enhancing overall performance. Apps are widely known for their ease of use and their ability to work offline. The drawback - since they are written in native code, not all users have access to the mobile apps they need. If you have an iPhone and an app is only available for Android users, your use is limited to the mobile website.

    Your IWMS Should Come with a Mobile App for Enhanced Capability

    When looking to align yourself with an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS), mobility should play a factor in your decision. The modern workforce is becoming increasingly more mobile, making portable tools less of a luxury and more of a necessity. And for the facilities profession, this could not be more true.

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    The FM’s duties are taking them out from behind their desks and into the field. Tasked with keeping the entire operation running effectively, there is no time for the disruptions of walking back to the desk to access or update important information. Mobile devices make it possible for you to work away from your desk and can provide you with immediate access to the critical information you need, when you need it. And since time is of the essence when you’re on-the-go, mobile applications that complement your workplace management software have become an invaluable tool.

    Not all mobile apps, however, are up to par, so it is important to inquire about each vendor’s applications before making your final decision. So, let’s discuss what you should be looking for in a mobile app.

    What Should I Be Looking for in a Mobile App 

    The purpose of your IWMS mobile app is to enhance your work performance. They are designed to accomplish tasks quickly and on-the-fly and should be built to take a more focused, targeted approach. Don’t expect this tool to have all the capabilities of your desktop software; but you should be able to perform mission critical tasks with ease and speed.

    So, what exactly should you be looking for in a mobile app?IWMS_Mobile_App_Image_2.jpg

    The first thing you want to inquire about is its native code. What mobile devices was the app designed for? If a majority of your workforce has iPhones, but the mobile app can only be used with Android, it is of no use to you. Ideally, the application should be compatible with all mobile devices. Asking details about the native code will also flush out those vendors that are trying to pass off a “mobile site” as a “mobile application.”

    Secondly, and you will want to take some time on this one, what is the functionality of the app? Consider what your workforce’s needs are and how a mobile app can enhance your productivity. Then, speak with the software vendor and find out how many of these needs will be met. Which modules are you considering and how many of those have a mobile app to complement it? If your primary focus is on proper space management, yet there is not a space app available, you will be right back where you started. 

    Ease of use is very important as well. Ask to view the application and take it for a test drive. Remember, the goal is to add flexibility to your workspace, so User Experience is important. If your workforce has to spend 20 minutes hunting and pecking, productivity will be diminished rather than enhanced.

    Whether you currently have a highly mobile workforce or not, this trend in flexibility and mobility isn’t going anywhere; so it’s best to prepare. App access should be available for your entire workforce, not just upper management. Ask your software partner if there is a cap on users or if you’re granted an unlimited number of users.

    Last, but certainly not least, what are the fees associated with this mobile tool? If there is a fee per user, this won’t, in the long-run, be a cost-effective option. The workplace management software provider should offer their apps for free, or incorporated into the module’s cost.

    Technology has become an integral part of the way we do business today. Enterprises who wish to solidify their position as industry leaders must respond to the dynamic workplace by offering their employees a variety of workplace management tools. As we shift to a more mobile society, it is vital that these tools include mobile devices and applications. To ensure your team is set up for success, look for an IWMS that offers an accompanying mobile app. You will find the possibilities for success are that much more achievable. 

    James McDonald

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    James McDonald

    James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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