6 apps to start building a mobile workforce

In terms of technologies, nothing has been more disruptive than mobile Internet.

Did you know that there are now more smartphones sold each year than desktop computers? And that mobile will surpass desktop Internet usage sometime in 2014?

For businesses, this has had a profound impact on the very notion of work. Where we once thought “work” to be about getting in at 9 am and sitting in a cubicle until the clock strikes 5 pm, we now live in an era where we are more connected — and thus more available — than ever before.

The negative side effects of this availability have been debated at length (and are a subject for another post), but the clear benefit is that we are no longer tethered to our desks and can work from quite literally anywhere.

In my role, I often find myself away from the office for long stretches of time. Where once this meant I’d return to a maelstrom of memos, emails and voicemails, I can now access — and also action them — from wherever I am.

Some of this capability, like emails and calendaring, are baked right into the devices, but what other apps are there that make working on-the-go as seamless as working at the office?

1. Project management: Basecamp

There are tonnes of cloud-based project management tools out there, but Basecamp by 37signals is still one of the best to me. It allows you to capture everything about a project such as discussions, notes, files, important dates and to-do lists in a single place rather than having to sift through emails or notebooks to find who was meant to do what and when. The native app was a longtime coming, but now that it has arrived, it’s an absolute godsend, allowing me to have everything I need to know about a project at my fingertips.

Also check out: Asana

2. Cloud storage: Dropbox

The granddaddy of cloud storage, Dropbox lets you access all your files from whatever device you’re on. As files are synced in the cloud, changes are automatically pushed to all your devices. While Dropbox offers a comparatively small 2GB of storage in the free plan, they innovate faster than their competitors and have a very attractive Business plan that would suit most teams.

Also check out: Google Drive, Box, SkyDrive

3. Brainstorming: MindNode Pro

Probably the most intuitive and attractive mind-mapping app on the market, MindNode Pro means I can quickly take notes, think through and connect ideas. The structure and flow of my presentations and strategy documents are typically conceived in MindNode before being fleshed out in another app.

4. Password management: 1Password

Do you use the same (or variations of the same) password on all your online accounts? Then you need 1Password. Protecting your online identity has never been more important, and this app helps you do that while encouraging you to generate strong, unique passwords for each website you join. The app means that you have on-the-go access to your accounts protected by a unique master password that only you will know. But it’s not just passwords — you can also store credit card PINs so you have no excuse for saving them in your contacts.

Also check out: LastPass

5. Scheduling: ScheduleOnce

Now this is not something I’ve personally used but one that would benefit your employees What’s cloud scheduling you ask? It syncs your workforces’ calendars in the single interface and allows customers and dispatchers to see your availability and make an appointment without needing to pick up the phone.

6. Maps: Google Maps 

In a few short years Google Maps has singlehandedly changed the way we navigate and get to meetings. We now carry our GPS devices in our pockets everywhere we go, drastically reducing the likelihood of you not knowing where you’re going.

But there are a few more features in Google Maps that could make it an even more valuable tool for your workforce. You can create and share custom maps, even with locations imported from a spreadsheet. Google Maps also provides driving time estimates with information on real time traffic. For employees who have to visit several new locations in a day, these features could prevent headaches and hassle.

So there you have it. While there are a swag of apps specific to certain roles such as time tracking and CRM, these will give you the foundations for building a mobile workforce.

Here’s another solution for your mobile team. MYOB PayDirect allows you to accept payments from smart phones on-the-go from clients.