Professional Mobile Apps for Group Chat, Intranet, etc.: A Blessing or a Curse?

There's a trend that's moving away from being always on and always available. Some companies even go so far as to prohibit checking email on smartphones outside of working hours and on weekends.

Nowadays, there are more enterprise software providers coming out with mobile apps. Would this constant email accessibility bring on additional stress? And employees aren't just getting email. They also have to deal with work-related questions that could come up at any time via push notifications.

I'd like to share a few of my own thoughts and experiences.

Work during 'free time'

Everyone is different, obviously. But that's how it is in any company. While you might want to get work out of your head for the evening or weekend, someone else might work a little later (perhaps frequently, even), in the evening, or on Sundays to take care of a few little things, reply to emails, update tickets and whatnot. I think all of those things are perfectly fine—as long as I get to decide how I spend my free time and to what extent work enters my private life.

mobile-apps-pic-1As I write, it's 9pm. There aren't any sports on TV, and the rest of the weekday program isn't anything special. I also don't feel like starting a new series. And then—the idea to write this article pops into my head. So, now I'm sitting at the computer with a nice German wheat beer and typing away. Let's see how long I can keep this going.

Of course, not every evening is like this, but sometimes it happens. And when it does, it's up to me and purely my business. What I want to say is, to each his own.

So, did I get my point halfway across about professional apps yet? Anyway, I have some applications on my smartphone, which I use mainly or at least partly for work—and anything on my phone is, of course, also somewhere in my private life.

Hipchat is on there, and I installed Telegram for work purposes only. The Twitter app helps me manage both my private account and those of //SEIBERT/MEDIA and our Tools4AgileTeams Conference. Soon, I'll add the new Linchpin intranet app, which our development team is feverishly chipping away at. (Currently, the app is used internally in a closed beta phase).

Usability outweighs annoyance

There are situations in which I can't stand professional apps, especially since push notifications like to come in large numbers, and at the worst times. For example, it could happen in the middle of an important game, on Sunday afternoons, on vacation, or in moments when I don't want to occupy myself with work. That's when the apps can get annoying.

So, what are the alternatives? I can make the process easier by doing away with the whole thing. (There are actually quite a few coworkers who have smartphones, but would never consider installing the HipChat app.) But I don't want to do that, because the apps are way too useful for me. In short, I wouldn't want it any other way.

I do want to get automatic updates from the company Twitter profiles. I think it's great that I can look into important group chat rooms or quickly clarify something one-on-one with a teammate while on a train or waiting for a flight. And I'm happily available on HipChat if a coworker has a quick question outside regular business hours.

It was really fun coordinating our past video project via Messenger with Martin Seibert, Lars Vollmer, and Niels Pflaegig, all from the comfort of my sofa. And I think it's going to be cool when the Linchpin intranet app comes out, especially on a Saturday when I'm waiting at the checkout line, scrolling through our internal microblog's timeline or getting mentioned in a push notification in the evening on this or that intranet page. Willingness is key.

Voluntary compliance

No company can order all employees to install an intranet app, for example. What people do with their own smartphones isn't something an employer can control. Companies can only offer something optional for personal mobile devices.

Of course, a large corporation might be able to provide work phones with data plans and pre-installed apps for all 10,000 employees in order to boost the mobile intranet—but it's unlikely that many organizations would actually do that. And it wouldn't be a guaranteed success either. In doubt, many would simply turn off their work smartphones as soon as they left the office and company grounds.

This needs to happen willingly–just like the participants within the intranet itself, who also cannot be commanded. However, mobile device use has been on the rise for years, and most people are pretty happy to have quick and easy access to their intranets.

Every success story begins with early adopters within companies who immediately install the new intranet app on their phones. And for them, the tool offers additional benefits.

linchpin-appDoes it save time in any way? How about cutting down the number of emails? Is it fast and easy to use? Is it of value when traveling? The Linchpin Mobile intranet app will do all of that: access to company news and push notifications with new alerts, one-click sign-ups for internal events, information about the lunch menu in the cafeteria, quick communication via the microblog, and a complete company phonebook with profiles–all in one lightweight app.

This is why I believe the app will bring something to users and that it will spread because of the early adopters within companies. It will also bring something to organizations. First, employees will have more ways to reach each other with information. And secondly, many small time savings quickly add up to significantly large blocks, creating real value. (My colleagues from the Linchpin team have made a calculation here.)

To make a long story short, professional apps make my life easier if they can help me work effectively and efficiently. This opinion isn't everything, and you can't get everyone on board with the solution. For me, though, it works. I get the information I want, when and where I want it, and I can cope with an occasional, annoying disturbance. I'm really looking forward to the mobile intranet!

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Further information

Differentiating between Confluence and Linchpin: Why you need Linchpin for your intranet
Linchpin Mobile: More information
Linchpin Touch: Intranet Throughout Your Entire Organization

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