We recently visited with Jeff Corbin, CEO and Founder of APPrise Mobile to talk about the company’s theEMPLOYEEapp platform, which integrates with a company’s active employee directory or other HR information system (HRIS) to provide organizations and enterprises direct access to their employees through mobile devices.
ADM: You recently stepped down as CEO of a communications consulting firm to become the CEO of APPrise Mobile, a mobile app development technology company. How did this come about and how does a consultant type move into technology development?
Corbin: For the past 20 years I have been working in the public relations/corporate communications industry as a consultant to companies with respect to their internal/employee communications. Approximately four years ago, our firm, KCSA Strategic Communications, started to incubate a mobile startup that would allow companies to aggregate content in the form of a native app for Apple and Android mobile devices.
Through integration with a company’s active directory of employees, the app is able to organize this information for easy consumption and push it to employees in a secure way. Since then, many large and small companies, including Fortune 100 companies, have embraced our platform, and theEMPLOYEEapp product as an easy and cost effective way to communicate with its workforce. With customers including Caesars Entertainment, Northwell Health (New York State’s largest private employer) and Sysco, I determined that now was the right time to leave consulting and focus full-time on bringing my communications industry expertise to APPrise Mobile.
ADM: How does APPrise Mobile, and in particular theEMPLOYEEapp product, compare to other technology companies that are dealing with workplace communications like messaging solutions?
Corbin: Messaging is just one small component of overall employee communications. In research that we conducted at theEMPLOYEEapp, we have learned that a significant factor impacting overall job satisfaction and engagement is the ability for employees to easily access information as well as to be communicated with on a regular and personal basis.
That’s what theEMPLOYEEapp accomplishes. We provide companies with an easy way to organize content so that it is easily and conveniently consumable on the small screens of the mobile device. Information and messages can instantaneously be pushed to all employees or discrete groups of employees via push notifications. Content can be shared amongst employees through email or other third-party apps on an individual’s device (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
Over the coming months, employees will be able to like or comment on content placed on their employer’s app. However, all of these options are at the discretion of the person or people administering the app. Just like a company’s corporate intranet is a comprehensive solution that encompasses much more than just file sharing and document storage, so too is theEMPLOYEEapp so much more than just messaging via mobile.
ADM: How do you compare theEMPLOYEEapp to legacy content-hosting solutions, particularly corporate intranets?
Corbin: Most legacy corporate intranets and SharePoint in particular are very difficult, if not impossible to access via the small screens of iPhones and Android mobile devices. In addition, many are confined within the firewall of a company making access challenging especially when strong internet access is not available.
theEMPLOYEEapp’s API enables companies to take from their existing intranet and allow for specific categories of content to appear on an employee’s mobile device in an easy to consume and organized way. However, we have also found that the corporate communications and human resource professionals at many companies are distributing content to their employees through theEMPLOYEEapp independent of their corporate intranets to make sure that their employees have easy access to the content most important to them
ADM: How does theEMPLOYEEapp help companies address the challenges of communicating with their employees and employee engagement? What business problems does your technology solve?
Corbin: The business challenges we solve at theEMPLOYEEapp are four-fold: (1) the vast majority of employees are not sitting behind desks – many are on the road, in warehouse, in retail stores, hospitals, etc.; (2) many employees do not have corporate email addresses – particularly those companies that have part-time employees; (3) corporate intranets that house important employee information are so vast and don’t work well on the mobile device; and (4) companies struggle to find a way to communicate simultaneously and instantaneously with their employees.
theEMPLOYEEapp addresses and solves all of these challenges in order to enhance employee engagement:
– theEMPLOYEEapp is not only a native app available for Apple and Android devices but is also available on the web and can be viewed on any device that has a browser;
– Employees do not need to have an email address to gain access; all that is required is a unique identifier like an employee ID number;
– Push notifications are sent to any employee anywhere in the world, as soon as new content is made available; and
– Content on theEMPLOYEEapp is structured and organized in an easily consumable manner making for a better employee user experience.
ADM: How does embracing technology in the workplace positively impact both the business and the employees?
Corbin: For starters, the majority of the workforce is now comprised of Millennials, many of who grew up reliant on mobile technology. Now that almost all members of the workforce have a mobile device (their own or company provided), there is an expectation among employees that their employer will take advantage of 21st Century ways of communicating.
Utilizing mobile technology demonstrates a company’s commitment and desire to communicate regularly and transparently with its employees. It also helps keep its employees engaged since information is being pushed directly to the device that is with its employees 24/7. Recent studies have found that enhanced employee engagement directly impacts a company’s top and bottom line. It’s therefore a win-win for the company and the employee.
ADM: What industries are you finding are faster to adopt mobile communications solutions than others and what do you attribute this to?
Corbin: Companies across all industries are embracing the importance of adopting a mobile communications solution given the fact that all of their employees now have some sort of device. Never before have they had such a direct and personal way to get information into the hands of their most important audience and to be able to do so immediately.
Nevertheless, we are seeing a lot of interest in the healthcare, hospitality and retail/food industries. Employees in these industries are not sitting behind a desk with access to an intranet. They spend most of their day on their feet. The last thing they want to do after a long day’s work is to sit down in front of a computer to review emails and other information. By having an app on their mobile device, they can access information when they want, no matter where they are.
ADM: Given theEMPLOYEEapp is a turn-key solution typically sold to corporate/internal communications and HR professionals – what level of involvement does IT have and how do you believe IT departments should adapt to embracing turn-key solutions like theEMPLOYEEapp?
Corbin: We welcome IT’s involvement in determining whether our solution is appropriate for a company and encourage them to embrace these types of turn-key solutions. Instead of incurring the time and cost associated with in-house development, IT departments can enable business line leaders to deploy solutions that solve their various business needs.
In our case, and given our background, we have focused on the communications industry. Understanding these professionals’ particular need, we have developed a solution that best fits their needs and therefore enable IT professionals to take on more of a consultative role rather than just being considered by some just for their tactical expertise.
ADM: What is the development cycle like for your products?
Corbin: We have been developing our platform for the past four years. We continuously improve and develop our platform based on the feedback of our customers and prospective customers. We roll-out new functionality and updates every quarter if not more often. Our dynamic product development pipeline takes us well into 2017 and is expanding on a weekly basis.
In terms of how long it takes a company to set-up its app to deploy, this depends on the company. However, since theEMPLOYEEapp is already developed, we have seen companies deploy in about a month from the time that they become a customer.
ADM: Have you adopted Agile or continuous release development strategies?
Corbin: Yes. While we maintain a broader and longer-term development plan, we engage in two week sprints that allow us to evaluate our current development plans, take into consideration requests and other improvements we are hearing from customers and prospects and modify our plan to make sure we are staying current and relevant for our customers’ needs.
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