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Mobile apps powering meetings on the move

Iain Ferguson
Business and Technology Journalist

Iain is a freelance writer and editor with extensive experience in journalism and corporate communications.

Iain Ferguson
Business and Technology Journalist

Iain is a freelance writer and editor with extensive experience in journalism and corporate communications.

Australian sole traders and workers in microbusinesses, small businesses and medium businesses are on the move more than ever. And mobile apps are paving the way for those traders and workers to achieve new levels of productivity and performance.

women stood on platform as fast train goes past

If you are working in one of these sized businesses, you’d be well aware meetings can interfere with the very work they’ve been called to discuss ‑ and, ironically, deadlines for completion of that work may even be the subject of those meetings!

During busy periods in particular, it can be more efficient to conduct meetings during those idle moments when travelling from one location to another, such as from the construction site to the office. If you’re travelling by taxi or train ‑ obviously not in the quiet carriage ‑ it may be possible to conduct multiple meetings on the move.

The potential benefits of meetings on the move are considerable. Projects remain on schedule while customers, partners, bosses and other stakeholders are kept up to date. Travelling time becomes more productive and, most importantly, you can recapture time to spend with your family or undertaking recreational or educational activities.  

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So, what apps are available to help you get the most from these meetings? App stores include a host of apps designed to support workers on the move.

For example:

Skype for Business enables you to meet with up to 250 people who have a phone or internet connection, while you can also schedule meetings in Microsoft Outlook, start conversations from apps such as Word and PowerPoint. However, if you’re having a confidential discussion, you may be better using audio rather than streaming video capabilities on 4G networks . This means a taxi driver, for example, will only hear one side of the conversation!

Yammer (available in a subscription with Office 365) is a private social network that businesses can use to allow you and other workers to start conversations, organise files and collaborate on projects.  

You can also use messaging apps such as WhatsApp to send text, audio and video messages to other individuals or groups. The group messaging function can be used as a team chat to get fast answers on simple questions or short projects. People conducting sensitive meetings in shared environments (such as train carriages) have the option of using text messaging apps to maintain privacy and confidentiality while continuing to collaborate effectively.    

For phone calls and video calls, there’s Telstra’s DOT app, which allows you to make and receive phone calls from your compatible mobile or tablet, while showing your fixed line number. You can also set up options such as call forwarding within the application, making it easier to arrange meetings on the run. 

During a meeting, it’s always handy to be able to access and refer to the necessary documentation, but lugging a filing cabinet onto the 3:15pm to Parramatta is not an option. Box is an app that allows you to store all your content online, by enabling users to share, view and edit entire business files on any compatible devices, on the go. As long as you have an internet connection and a compatible device you can quickly find that topical document. Users can also share files with team members, customers and partners, synchronise their web, desktop and mobile content, and capture content such as photos and videos directly from a compatible iPhone or iPad.

Finally, DocuSign is another popular app that simplifies the job of preparing and sending documents for signature, as well as signing and returning those documents without printing out or scanning a single sheet of paper. That new contract can be filled out, signed and returned in the back of the cab, ready for the next meeting. 

Planning effective mobile workflows

How might you exploit the potential of mobile apps, so you can thrive in competitive industries such as construction, marketing and media?

The first step is to review your working patterns, focusing particularly on the number and type of meetings scheduled each week, as well as the time spent travelling between locations. Doing so can reveal the extent to which you can boost productivity by conducting more of your meetings on the move. For managers of small businesses with multiple employees, this exercise can help determine the extent to which a ‘meetings on the move’ project could improve overall workforce productivity.

The next step for both individuals and managers is to review any apps used by you or your team to be productive on the move. The speed of app development and the functionality delivered by the newest mobile apps means these reviews should be completed on a regular basis.

Finally, identify and deploy the apps that best support meetings on the move. Apps may differ depending on the context of your business and the tasks you might usually undertake. One handy tool that can help identify the best apps to increase your business’s productivity is Techstarter.

So, next time you’re twiddling your thumbs on the train or in a taxi travelling between workplace locations, think to yourself, “Could I be using this time to meet with others to progress that critical project?” The answer will be obvious.  

Case in point: Ben Mailler, Relken Engineering

What is it like working without an office?

Liberating – not having an office liberates our employees from a lot of the constraints associated with an office environment: fixed working routines, battle for fixed office resources (conference rooms etc), making do with a facility or location because it’s a sunk cost.

Efficient – with the right technical enablers, the absence of a fixed office allows harmonious communication and collaboration while enabling: less distractions from the cubicle farm, time normally spent commuting to be shared between work and the family, more efficient scalability of the workforce.

Innovative – going officeless has forced us to be innovative about how we communicate and collaborate with our staff and clients. This approach has developed an atmosphere where innovation is actively encouraged which has translated in a business culture of challenging traditional paradigms and providing innovative solutions to our client.

What are some of your challenges in not having a base?

With geographically dispersed staff, we are acutely aware of the need for physical interaction. The connectedness is achieved through Webex phones, simultaneous editing, etc are great but we also get the team together at least once a year for the Relken Conclave.

Occasionally the absence of an office has the potential to create a perception of transience and lack of stability, especially for new clients or when preparing tender submissions. However, once clients have experienced the flexibility and cost savings, they love the approach.

What are your favourite apps?

Finance: Xero, Receipt Bank, NAB Connect

Collaboration: Wrike, SharePoint (Office365), LucidCharts Webex, Skype for business, Zotero

Travel: Tripit, Receipt Bank

Communication: MailChimp, Skype for Business, LinkedIn

Management and Productivity: Wrike, Tableau, Scanner Pro, One Drive for Business

What is your advice for other businesses wanting to work on the go?

Don’t be constrained by historical paradigms, but take the time to understand your requirements with regards to workflow, integration and data. There are a lot of apps and systems out there so do your research and revisit options (it is a constantly evolving space and products that miss key requirements at one point in time may have evolved into an elegant solution the following year).

Importantly, determine how you will assess the health of your client and staff relationships. Balance output-based interactions with relationship/trust building interactions and create opportunities to get together. 

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