Due an upgrade? Smartphone apps that boost business

Apps are prevalent, powerful, and help businesses to grow and run smoothly. Small and mid-sized businesses have endorsed the viral marketing campaigns of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but many forget the power of the business app – there are some out there that can get you organised, connected and visible. 

Real Business catches up with Valerie Holt, chairwoman of Footprint Media, to find out which apps can really boost business.

The importance of smartphone apps to UK SMEs

“British SMEs are increasingly looking for their workforce to be flexible about when and where they work to enable them to achieve some kind of competitive advantage,” considers Valerie Holt. “To facilitate this SMEs are embracing mobile technology and specifically smartphone technology.” 

A recent survey by Netgear showed that some 35 per cent of SMEs are considering strategic investment in new technology, with 28 per cent specifically investing in portable devices such as tablets and smartphones.

“SMEs generally don’t have the huge legacy IT infrastructure that larger companies have and are therefore able to be more responsive in their approach to using new technologies. The relatively low price per unit of these technologies has also had an impact, as they are not having to invest six figure sums in either the devices or the apps themselves. All of a sudden the playing field of technology has been leveled and SMEs have access to the same tools that had previously been the domain of the larger corporates.”

Advantages

Valarie Holt believes there are a good number of reasons why apps can help us perform our roles more efficiently and the key advantage is giving us access to information as and when we need it. 

“Be it a salesman demonstrating his wares, a manager about to appraise a member of staff, a health and safety manager wanting to report an incident, or simply finding the venue of your next meeting; all of this information can either be delivered or captured at the point of need via an app on a portable device quickly and efficiently. 

“All of a sudden we have this information in our pocket and are not having to carry around large bags with laptops and search for an internet connection.”

Disadvantages

Footprint Media’s chairwoman admits that although Apps can have a positive influence on business, there are also negative side effects, such as increasing reliability on the little helpers.

“A reliance on having this information to hand means, if there is a poor phone signal or no WiFi connection then we can be plunged into information darkness. There can be a frustration when trying to use an app on a train or plane as it’s a time when many business users turn to their tablets or smartphones only to discover that there is little or no signal. 

“Many of the Apps that are developed are only accessible in an online mode. There are some that store the information on the device and are therefore useable online and offline, so it’s important to check that the apps you are relying on will be available for use in all situations.”

Valarie recommends a handful of apps that she can’t live without – and that she believes are ideal companions for any business team:

  • Evernote: “Which organises my work life, from my to do lists, through to capturing things I need to read or look at. The great thing about this app is it works on all of my devices, from my desktop, to my iPad through to my mobile phone (Blackberry). It syncs automatically, meaning whatever device I have to hand I am able to write notes and keep myself organised. I think this is the secret to a really successful app; it is available not only on mobile devices but also on our desktop.”
  • The Times newspaper: “I can download before I catch a train and read at my leisure.” 
  • Banking Apps: “Useful in helping me manage cash flow on a moment by moment basis, a key requirement for SMEs in these straightened times.”
  • “My guilty secret is Words with Friends, a Scrabble style app, which has introduced me to a whole new vocabulary.”
It’s also worth remembering the latest payment revolutions: new smartphone apps and products such as iZettle and SumUp look to reach small and medium sized businesses that have a problem accepting credit and debit card payments.

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