Written by Ciara O’Keeffe, Director of Products and Customer Delivery

Yesterday I attended the seventh SMiLE London event. I ran two Expert Table Sessions on ‘Points to consider when sourcing an internal comms app’.

There were a number of table sessions to choose from so those who chose to attend mine had either been thinking about adding an app to their channel mix or they were interested in mobile communications. I received a lot of great questions and delegates were very engaged with the topic.

Below are some of the main points, which were discussed:

Use case

  • Don’t source an app until you have a qualified use case.
  • That use case must clearly articulate how the app is going to add value to the business.
  • E.g. connecting frontline employees, keeping them up to date with new products and marketing activity, giving them a voice to tell you what matters to them and what your customers are saying about you.
  • Run focus groups with employees and stakeholders – crowd source the problem(s) you’re trying to fix as well as the potential solution(s).
  • Have in mind what content is going on there – it shouldn’t be copied and pasted from an intranet. Create content, which is designed for a mobile device. It should be short, snappy and visual.


  • Have an idea in advance of what your budget is.
  • If it’s small, try to secure a pilot to test your favourite app for a minimum of 3 months. You really need six to get good usage data. I always recommend a pilot before rolling out an app.
  • You’re more likely to gain internal support from the right people, if you involve them in the pilot.
  • You will also know if it’s a good fit for your organisation before you fully commit to the product

Off the shelf vs. build your own

  • Decide if you want to buy an off the shelf version or embark on building your own.
  • Building a sophisticated app is complex and with an off the shelf version enhancements, innovation and support are included, or at least they should be.
  • Always involve your employees in the decision process, help them to design the app with you – this goes for both off the shelf and BYO.
  • Timing plays an important role as an off the shelf version can be switched on and customised in a very short time.
  • Some companies really want a very customised app and therefore they engage an app building company to work with.
  • Give yourself more time than you initially think, as you will need to get it right from the start.


  • Start small and using analytics change the offering depending on user feedback and statistics.
  • Adapt to the needs of your employees and company.
  • Schedule in regular software/feature updates, just as users would expect to get from their consumer apps. Employee’s now expect the same level of performance and innovation from company-issued apps.
  • Using a focus group link your features to your company goals and the original app use-case.
  • If you’re going for an off-the shelf app, ask the provider to share their product road map with you so you can see what features they’ll be providing in the future.
  • Let the provider know if you have any requests for features, which you feel would benefit your organisation and others.


  • Analytics are critical. Every internal comms app should come with analytics as standard.
  • Ask to see stats such as:
    • How many people are using the app,
    • What times of the day,
    • What days of the week,
    • What content is popular, what isn’t.
  • For video’s it’s important to be able to tell, at what point did the majority of employees stop watching the training video or the CEO’s message

Add social features

  • How are you going to encourage employees to use your app?
  • Mix of interesting content, alerts and notifications plus a community pull.
  • Enabling user generated content (UGC), I believe, is a basic but very, very important requirement.
  • Push notifications to users to alert them to important posts and information. Alerts when other users mention them or comment on their posts.
  • How often would you use Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn if you never had an in-app alert?

IT Partnership

  • It’s vital that you involve your IT department from the start.
  • You will need their support to help you with various points such as:
    • Security compliance – what the suppliers need to offer,
    • Which technical support agreement you should choose,
    • App deployment method,
    • Integrations you may want to do both now and in the future.

Leadership involvement not sponsorship

I repeat this phrase all the time. It’s not just relevant for launching apps internally but any new communication channel or change programme. Without the commitment of leaders to getting involved in the change and using the new tool your employees will not use it. Ensure leaders know the business benefit, they’re committed to getting involved and they are in it for the long term.
You can also view this article on Ciara O’Keeffe’s LinkedIn 


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