Did you get any gadgets for Christmas? And are you still using them now? Gadgets like tablets and smartphones and the apps that go with them can help you work more efficiently.
You might have noticed the increasing trend towards Bring Your Own Device, and your company might already have policies in place about allowing you to access work data like information about your project on your personal devices. This trend shows no sign of stopping and this year we’ll probably see more and more companies adopt security policies that let employees use their own smartphones for work purposes. It helps them keep costs down but it does increase the admin and management and open up risks for sharing confidential data so if you are going to BYOD, make sure you do it within the official guidelines of your company – if in doubt, talk to your IT team about what you need to do to secure your device.
So, enough about policies and security, on to the apps. Well, actually I’m not going to focus on specific apps that will help you manage your projects because what’s available changes all the time. Instead, here are some things to look out for when you select what apps you want on your device for work:
1. Apps that allow access to your project management online tool
Many project management tools that are available as hosted solutions now come with mobile interfaces for Android and iOS that enable you to use them on your tablets and smartphones. This is a good place to start because if you already use an online project management tool the chances are you’ll want to access it on the go.
Check the company’s website to see if they offer a mobile app version of their product and then download it to your device. You’ll probably need to use the same login and password to access the site and then you should be able to see all your project management data from your phone. Some apps have limited functionality or views, so check out what you can see and do before you expect to need to use it while travelling so you aren’t surprised!
2. Apps that integrate with your online project management tool
Another place to look for apps is those that integrate with your online project management software. Again, check the website or blog from the company that provides your software as it is there that you’ll be most likely to find information about what social networks or apps have full integration with their products.
The most useful integrations will be things you already use regularly or could make use of, such as Google Docs or email tools but it could also be useful to look at what you could do differently and how you could update your plan. For example, some tools allow integration with social networks like Twitter and Yammer and these can be used to provide real time status updates for your project – useful if your project team want to update their progress on the go.
3. Apps that help you work
You can also download standalone apps that help you work more productively. Many are free but there are some you’ll have to pay for if you think you’ll get the value from them. My current favourites are Pages (the word processing app for my iPad) and Dragon, which is a voice recognition tool that means I can dictate text and don’t need to use the keyboard to record my thoughts. It only works when I have an internet connection, but I can cope with that.
There are so many tools available to you for tracking time, managing meetings, storing tasks and so on – you’ll have to try a few to see what works for you but try to mirror how you work offline so the change to your working practice isn’t too big and is sustainable. Otherwise you’ll find that the app creates more work for you and really doesn’t boost your productivity.
4. Apps that help you keep in touch with project teams
Finally, look for apps that will help you keep in touch with your project team members. Things like Skype fall into this category, along with other apps that allow you to do instant messaging, set up group chats or collaborate somehow. This normally only work if the other team members have the same apps on their devices, so you’ll need to collectively agree what to use and how to use it, otherwise you won’t get any value from it!
What if team members don’t have a gadget with apps on? Don’t let them feel left out. You’ll have to build other communication channels into your project or take the discussion off your device completely so that you can successfully integrate everyone in the team.
When you search for apps, look for ones that are up to date and with good user reviews. Don’t be afraid to stop using it if it doesn’t work for you or your team. And of course, use your gadgets considerately, following good gadget etiquette when at work!
What are your favourite apps at the moment? Let us know in the comments.
This video looks at the impacts of the recession on budgets and covers the benefits of home working as well as the green elements of saving money. There's a white paper here (.pdf) with more information.