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Summary:

What apps do mobile workers need to get their jobs done? A new Forrester report has identified eight “must have” categories of mobile collaboration apps. Here’s a run-down of all the categories outlined, together with some of our recommendations for apps to use in each category:

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Yagan Kiely

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  1. Rahul Aggarwal Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Leveraging mobility is the most important factor for a business enterprise, to achieve better productivity from its work force. The listed apps here are analyzed well with perfect reasoning as to why these apps are endorsed for better industry standards.

  2. Great and very useful list. When on the go, especially abroad, one would also need an app for low cost calling. The inflated roaming calls rates could be bypassed with an app like Favafone (www.favafone.com)

  3. how many gadget can support it and what is the minimum specification?

  4. Babak Sardary Friday, July 15, 2011

    Great list! One category of tools I’d like to add is social problem solving / group tasking. Having run field teams I know this is of special interest to technical and sales folks working between field and office.

    1. Scoop(tm) Mobile Collaboration takes a fresh new approach to distributed team field data collection and problem solving. The neat thing is that it weaves in voice, pictures and video to bring teams to the same worksite etc. virtually.

  5. Check out CollabraCam on iOS for multicam video collaboration on the go! Collaborate and edit a multicam video on-the-fly… Just need a Wi-Fi network or HotSpot. Would love to see it added to the article.

    We had a very interesting use case in Brazil. The app was used in a production workflow as a preproduction tool. They shot a quick video storyboard with the app to pitch to a client. Once they had client approval they reshot the video in HD.

  6. Gregg@MobileMerger Friday, July 15, 2011

    Very comprehensive list. I agree with Peter some kind of app for making phone calls over data sounds like a great addition. Talkatone and a Google Voice account are my suggestions for those with iOS devices.

  7. Good One :)

  8. For Doc Collaboration, Presence/Chat, & Social Collaboration, I use OnePlace (www.oneplacehome.com)–love that it’s available via mobile so I can stay connected to my team, regardless of where I’m running off to next.

  9. A good read. Thanks.

  10. A good read. Thanks

  11. HyperOffice has native mail, calendar, contacts and tasks (where applicable) sync for all major mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile etc.

  12. Jessica McConnel Monday, July 25, 2011

    What is going to be in your “must have” category really depends on what kind of work you do, and how you organize it. I would guess that the majority of people would use email, calendars, document sharing, and some kind of communication tools in their everyday life. In my team we also use activity stream to stay up to date.
    As for a tool, the main tool is Wrike, because it unites most of those features in one software, and I strongly believe that having everything in one place is a great way to be more efficient.

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