Smartphones, tablets and apps have become part of the everyday lives of millions of people across the planet over the last five years and have grown in sophistication to meet this massive demand. Working in Internal Communication means we are often encouraged to use channels that best reflect the communication habits of employees, but what are the outcomes we expect from using mobile technologies and what are the situations where use is most appropriate?
Are large companies prepared to provide mobile devices to their employees or are employees expected to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and use them for business purposes? Mobile is where most people receive their information these days and those who have a device that they like use it more often for this purpose.
According to data released in October 2012 by web measurement specialist Shareaholic, 16 percent of the web traffic to over 200,000 sites now comes from mobile devices. IT market research company Gartner, meanwhile, is more bullish: it’s predicted that sometime this year mobile traffic will outstrip that of desktops and laptops.
So, by delivering company news, announcements and training to a workforce’s personal mobile device, organizations have a better opportunity to actively engage employees with the information they’re offered or need to perform their jobs.
Mobile Delivery Options
For some companies, extending the organization’s intranet to mobile devices is the next logical step. There are two approaches here. First, there is “responsive web design”, an approach to web development proposing that the design of a website (or, in this case, an intranet) should respond to the user and their device – its screen size, platform and orientation. In other words, whether an employee views the intranet on their desktop PC, their laptop at home, or their smartphone in an airport lounge, responsive design means that pages will render in response to the device they are viewed on.
The second approach would be the creation of intranets specifically designed for mobile delivery but scaled down to offer just a handful of the content, features and functionality of the desktop version.
In most cases, access to a mobilized intranet will be via the browser on a user’s mobile device. Another approach, however, is an app. This boasts the distinct advantage of still working offline – that is to say, when the user is not able to access Wi-Fi or the data network. It also has advantages in terms of offering sophisticated features and functions that are typically not possible through a mobile browser approach.
The ROI of mobile
There’s been little research into the return on investment (ROI) that companies might expect from using mobile technology in their communications strategy, but the cost of not accommodating this new way of working could be colossal.
In other words, mobility makes internal communications part of the time that people spend on their phones when they don’t have anything else to do – when they’re waiting or traveling, for instance. “It’s about targeting those little gaps in time throughout the day when people might otherwise be unproductive.”
The next big challenge in mobile internal communication will be injecting social networking into the equation, because in that way, internal communications becomes dialogue-driven, rather than a one-way broadcast, from the company to its employees. Products like Yammer and SharePoint are paving the road towards effective mobile use of these technologies, but we are just at the beginning of where mobile will take us.