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Steaming ahead – Rise of the interactive enterprise app

“You should be ashamed of yourself – following that Piers Morgan on Twitter!” “I see Kym is having pizza for tea tonight.” “Oh no, I’ve lost another £10 on the bookies!” All these modern day cries of woe can be linked to one common source: the app.

Apps have become an intrinsic part of our daily lives. According to stats portal, Statista, there were more than 1.5m apps available through the Apple Store alone last year and is growing at a rate of 1000 apps per day. Our addiction to them is becoming so acute that they can be a primary reason for couples not talking to each other over dinner or children being late for school. I recently heard someone criticise Facebook, claiming it was ‘awful’ only to find that minutes later they were trawling through the site via its mobile app, immersed in every detail flowing through their newsfeed.

From what I have witnessed, the growth of apps certainly appears to be contributing to the emergence of our ‘stare at screen’ culture but they can also be a force for good. They can provide immediate and up to date information at the touch of a button; create a level of unheralded accessibility to people (like my ‘friend’ Piers) and make everyday activities from banking to baking so much easier (yes, even Mary Berry has her own app). I can turn my heating on using one app and make an average photo look very special using another. Every day, new apps are born to enlighten, entertain, educate, transform and support our personal lifestyle choices.

However, whilst this has transformed the consumer experience, including the use of apps in commercial sectors such as banking and retail, there seems to be a lack of wider engagement from companies in using the underlying technology to support and advance business.

We at Spotless have been one of the early commercial adopters in taking the app journey, a process we started over three years ago. This has led to the launch of our own enterprise app which has delivered significant value and communication benefits for both our people and our clients.

With more than 800 sites and over 1250 colleagues throughout the UK, data capture and collation was a real challenge for our business. Interpretation and more importantly, reaction to such data inevitably took time which could effectively lead to a dilution of the end service through lag and delay.

Since developing the Spotless App, operational data capture is so much simpler, done by colleagues in real time using a tablet or mobile device, with the information received and collated instantly. Reporting is slicker with immediate access from anywhere in the world to pertinent information on any of our sites. We can now tag app submissions with alerts, ensuring that important information from an on-site accident to the posting of a new idea from a colleague is immediately flagged up via a user-friendly alert to my phone. This all leads to an increase in productivity whilst administration tasks and paper use is significantly down.

This is great for our customers and through their own app-related portal our clients now have full visibility of the services we are delivering to their sites, increasing accountability, transparency and engagement.

Engagement is such a critical part of our focus and whilst there can be a perception that this type of technology can alienate and distance people engagement, we decided to challenge this so that this was not the case. We actually use our app to support, extend and enhance the management of our culture. Partnering with MBM Commercial, together we designed a number of simple but highly effective initiatives that encourages our managers to increase the level of engagement with our colleagues. Job Chats, Informal Discussions and general support guidance Fact Sheets ensure that the dreaded disciplinary process is rarely required – and if there is a requirement, then the relevant documentation is instantly available with appropriate sign off from all parties.

We are so proud of our app that we have started leasing it to competitors in our market - a new revenue stream for our business - so they too can share in its benefits. This evolution in thinking enabled us to focus on what really matters, our people, our culture and the real value we bring to our customers.

Our successful journey into the world of apps has only been possible through the trusted partnership we’ve built with our developer Steven Calder and his team from Glasgow-based Streamba. Given the limited corporate usage of apps so far, finding a company with their expertise was not an easy process.

Steven started the app development journey by waltzing into Spotless, challenging (and sometimes ridiculing) the well-established processes we had in place, some of which were there at my behest. It felt like my four years at college, three years CA training and 20 odd years practising my learnings and education were effectively ripped to shreds that one afternoon in July 2012 – but boy was it worth it!

Significantly, in developing our app, the technology angle always came second to Steven who was more concerned about understanding the growth aspirations of the business and how technology could play a major supporting role. Together, we quickly discovered that app technology focused on the right challenges, would make life easier for our people, helping us to achieve our aims and ultimately focus on delivering exceptional results for our customers. Even for those companies which have no intention of developing an app, I would encourage they go through this business evaluation process as you may be amazed at what refinements to your processes and procedures could come from this.

While businesses seem to have been slower to grasp app technology, the good news is that more enterprise developers like Steven are now emerging. The games market for app developers is so crowded that they are now applying their skills to a wider range of businesses. Yes, it can require significant investment but it can also be hugely beneficial in helping run your operations and, as we have found, it could even create a new revenue stream for your company.

Stretching your thinking can lead you on a wondrous journey. Your business does not need to be high tech or revolutionary - the reality is quickly emerging that enterprise apps are maybe best placed to significantly enhance traditional and sometimes static industry sectors, helping innovative thinking companies steal a march on their competitors and ultimately transform their business.

Niall Moffat

Spotless Commercial Cleaning

As ever, if you have any questions or comments on our guest blog or would like to get in touch with Niall direct, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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