Do you really need an app for that?

Today’s blog is a summary from our podcast released last week featuring a conversation with Future Workshops’ CEO Matt Brooke-Smith, who spoke to our team about the shifting landscape of mobile app development, how it is no longer the preserve of the IT department and how low-code/no-code app development is becoming more and more relevant to HR teams.

Can you give us a bit of insight into some of the key learnings you’ve seen through app development?

As a business we have been formed primarily as a result of evolving requirements within the people technology space. Our product today is a platform that allows you to build high quality mobile apps without having to write any code. We’d been building apps for our customers for years and about five years ago one of the world’s leading banks approached us to help support their HR team through a large transformation phase within the business. The business was focused on internal mobility and growth within the organisation, reducing attrition, investing significant amounts of money on training programmes, and creating content for internal development.

Our client found that employees were not engaging with the learning content as much as they needed them to, given the investment they had made; so they wanted to create an app that would enable employees to access this development content wherever they were. We created the app, and it improved engagement with the learning content, but not enough. We started to drill down into ‘why’ behind this engagement hadn’t been as impressive as we hoped. This included deep-dive research which revealed that the people within the business were not engaging with the content because they felt – for want of a better word – ‘ashamed’ not to know some of the content that was on the platform. The realisation that the language and the approach to communicating the value of the content as an ‘advancement of your skills’ rather than it being seen as skills that you should already know was an important learning for us too, and that better adoption is born of better analysis of the data you have within a business.

We realised that spending more time on the users of the application and understanding their needs and requirements was more important than the development build of the application itself. That helped to shift our approach and started us on the journey whereby we realised that development time needs to be as simplified and quick as possible, and that truly understanding of user group needs gave the greatest value.

With that in mind, how much support do customers require from the development of an app if they are using a low-code/no-code platform like yours?

Every organisation today is going through digital transformation with some more mature in thinking than others. There is a wide spectrum and it depends on how far a business is along its transformation journey. Sometimes we work with businesses who want us to support from the initial scoping and research phase, whereas we have instances in which businesses already have insights and what they want to do now is short, sharp, rapid releases and to test their KPIs to see how quickly their ideas and thinking can be effectively delivered through the development of an app.

What is the timeframe that businesses work towards when they look at app development? What is the minimum viable product (MVP)?

We can build MVPs within a couple of days depending on the scope of work. What we have seen is that latency in projects is more down to the onboarding and procurement process, rather than the build itself. The biggest change in the last five years has been the time to focus on the research and background work, rather than the build and development time. The ease of development also makes it easier for businesses to get the type of app that works for them, because you can launch and develop several iterations without there being any large-scale costs. The focus becomes more about the business problem and the adoption problem you are trying to solve.

Are there any other specific people technology apps that you are developing at the moment?

We’re working with one global organisation to build an employee benefits app at the moment which is fully customisable to the businesses needs. They’re very conscious of not wanting to have an ‘off the shelf’ employee benefits portal. Within two weeks we’ve been able to put together a system which can show location-specific benefits to the employees per country, provide feedback and also gather the data which informs the HR team which offers and benefits are having the most value and impact to employees. This is, in turn, connected to a centralised source which can provide feedback and effective analysis for the global HR Team.

What is the number one challenge you get asked by HR teams in terms of the biggest problem to solve?

Often we are asked whether employees in the organisation actually want an app, whether apps are still ‘in fashion’, which of course our answer is: “yes, providing those apps are solving a problem”. The key is to understand the needs of the people you are serving and give yourself the opportunity to iterate and improve your product over time.

How has the acceleration in digital transformation manifested itself over the last year?

From a Future Workshops perspective, I think it has been interesting to see how it is not just commercial organisations that have driving their own digital agenda, but government bodies, healthcare, etc. All have realised the importance in the shift towards delivering services digitally, but we have certainly seen an uptick in the demand for organisations to build out skills of people who can deliver digital services. People are looking at their own skillsets and asking, “how can I improve my skills and improve my own value within an organisation” and app development is often one of the key areas of skills development they look at.

If you would like to find out about the steps you can take to develop out an app for your business, or you are looking at analysing the value it might bring to your people function, you can contact LACE Partners to discuss your latest tech infrastructure projects. If you are further along your journey and are looking at the development of an app for your employees, get in touch with the Future Workshops Team.You can also see Future Workshops’ Mobile Workflow here.