With a growing proportion of the workforce already being highly mobile, coupled with an increasing number of workers are expecting to bring their own devices to work, it’s clear that picking the right collaboration apps to keep workers productive while on the go is vital to business success. But what apps do mobile workers need to get their jobs done? A new Forrester report, Mobilize Your Collaboration Strategy, has identified eight “must have” categories of mobile collaboration apps. Here’s a run-down of all the categories outlined, together with some of GigaOM’s recommendations for apps to use in each category:
Email and calendars. Email is, unsurprisingly, still the most important mobile app. According to Forrester, 87 percent of smartphone workers use email on their devices (which leaves me wondering what other 13 percent use their smartphones for), and collectively, they do 32 percent of their email on a smartphone. While most smartphones come with their own email and calendaring tools most users will use, there are some third-party options worth considering:
- Gmail and Google Calendar. If you use Gmail, it’s worth noting that the mobile-optimized versions of the Gmail and Google Calendar sites are pretty good. They are fast and have a great UI, and one of the advantages of using them is that you can seamlessly switch from device to device without having to set up IMAP details in your various devices’ email clients.
- Touchdown. Brings superb Microsoft Exchange support to Android devices.
Document-based collaboration. Mobile workers need to be able to access their documents while out of the office on any of their devices. Cloud-based document collaboration tools need to include mobile access to be truly effective.
- Documents to Go. Dataviz’s Documents to Go is a popular mobile document editing app. It’s available for a variety of platforms, including iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Palm. When combined with a cloud file sync service like Dropbox or box.net, it enables users to access and edit their documents no matter where they are.
- Soonr. Soonr is a cloud-based document sync service. However, it also offers integrated MS Office document editing capabilities , which means users don’t need to use a separate app like Documents to Go.
Web conferencing. According to Forrester, 18 percent of information workers and 34 percent of senior staff use web conferencing at least weekly. Mobile access means being able to attend meetings even while away from the laptop.
- Fuze Meeting. Fuze Meeting’s impressive service is accessible with mobile devices. Its new Telepresence Connect service can extend traditional room-based telepresence to iPads and Android tablets.
- Join.me. LogMeIn’s simple and easy-to-use web conferencing app is accessible through iOS and Android apps.
Activity streams. Forrester thinks activity streams are becoming a critical resource for organizations that work collectively: sales teams, project teams, and executive staff, for example. Mobile support is crucial as it enables workers to stay updated no matter where they are.
- Yammer. Yammer is a popular enterprise social networking tool very much like a private Facebook for the enterprise. It offers mobile support though mobile apps available for a variety of platforms.
- Socialtext. Socialtext is another enterprise social networking and collaboration app that offers activity streams. It offers mobile support via an optimized version of the website.
Presence and chat. Knowing whether a colleague is available or not is a killer feature when out of the office. While this category of app lags today, Forrester expects adoption to accelerate. These types of features are often also often included in other mobile collaboration tools.
- eBuddy. A multi-protocol mobile chat app that supports AIM , ICQ, Google Talk, Yahoo! and MSN Windows Live Messenger within a single interface. It’s available via a native client for Android and iPhone and there’s also a mobile-optimized website.
- IM+. Another popular “all-on one” IM app that supports a variety of protocols, including AIM, iChat, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, ICQ, Jabber, Google Talk, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Skype Chat, and works on a number of different mobile platforms.
Social collaboration. In this category, Forrester includes access to internal blogs, wikis, community sites, and social networks from a tablet or smartphone. Mobile access allows every professional will remain connected and part of the collaborative process.
- IBM Lotus Connections. IBM’s social suite is supported on a range of mobile platforms, including Android, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry and Nokia.
- Jive Software. Jive Software’s enterprise social suite provides mobile access though apps for iPhone and BlackBerry.
Expertise location. Forrester says this type of application is on the rise as firms look for ways to make mobile employees productive by helping them identify experts from anywhere. This type of app brings together presence, notifications, social profiles and data from HR. Many social business tools provide this kind of functionality, including:
Video conferencing. Skype has some 170 million active monthly users, and 39 percent of those people use Skype for work. Web conferencing vendors are also adding video to their products. Due to heavy resource requirements, there are few multi-party mobile video conferencing apps, though.
- Skype. Skype provides video calling for mobile platforms including iPhone and Android.
- Fring. One of the first apps to bring four-way video calls to the iPad, Fring provides native mobile apps for a variety of platforms, and also has mobile browser access.
Personally, I’m not convinced expertise location is really a “must-have” category of mobile collaboration app just yet. Do you agree with Forrester’s categories of “must-have” apps, and which apps do you recommend for each category?
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As we all know, the world is inundated with data about practically everything we do, from where we are to who we know to what we eat, and it’s an extremely exciting time to be working in a field trying to make sense of all of it. However, as I and others have pointed out, there’s a lot of effort in our discipline put toward what I feel are sort of “bourgeois” applications of data science, such as using complex machine learning algorithms and rich datasets not to enhance communication or improve the government, but instead to let people know that there’s a 5% deal on an iPad within a 1 mile radius of where they are. In my opinion, these applications bring vanishingly small incremental improvements to lives that are arguably already pretty awesome.
On the other hand there are lots of NGOs and non-profits out there doing wonderful things for the world, from rehabilitating criminals, to battling hunger, to providing clean drinking water. However, they’re increasingly finding themselves with more and more data about their practices, their clients, and their missions that they don’t have the resources or budgets to analyze. At the same time, the data /dev communities love hacking together weekend projects where we play with new datasets or build helpful scripts, but they usually just culminate in a blog post or some Twitter buzz. Wouldn’t it be rad if we could get these two sides together?