The days of only using desktop software are long gone. There’s plenty of choice in the smartphone-capable space, but which suite should you choose?
The very short answer to that question is that there really is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to smartphone productivity suites, both because the needs of a given organisation can differ wildly, but also because a smartphone productivity suite is by its nature going to be something of a cut-down creature compared to its desktop counterpart. In terms of the big name apps, there’s obviously Office 365, but also Google Apps For Work, Apple’s iWork suite for iOS and a host of smaller contenders in the more vertical app space, depending on your needs.
So what should you consider when evaluating a smartphone office suite? Here’s some issues to consider.
What devices do your staff already use?
In the era of BYOD, that could encompass a wide variety of smartphone operating systems, but also a variety of potential productivity opportunities. Microsoft rather obviously bundles mobile versions of its key apps with Windows Phone devices, but also makes Office available for iOS and Android platforms. Google’s Docs platform works via browser, so technically should work with any mobile device, although its own apps do a slightly better job working with smaller screens and touch interfaces.
If you’re an entirely Apple-centric workforce within and outside the office, Apple’s iWork apps for iOS are entirely free to use, although heavier use may incur iCloud storage fees for some documents.
It’s also worth considering the age and operating system requirements of the devices your staff will be using. If they’re carrying around older handsets, you may find some apps and services that won’t work for everyone due to OS or App requirements.
What apps are your staff already comfortable with?
While you shouldn’t be afraid to dip into new apps if there’s an obvious productivity boost, at the same time you can save a lot of time, and consequently money matching up the expectations and training of your staff to the available apps. Even if you’re not paying anything for a given app, if everyone has to be trained in how to operate those apps from their smartphones, they could be costly to implement
Where are you going to store all those documents?
Different smartphone office suites offer access to different storage setups, whether it’s directly on-phone, which probably won’t work unless you’re a very small operation indeed, to a variety of cloud based services. Apple’s iWork apps naturally talk to iCloud, Office 365 will talk happily to OneDrive and Dropbox, Google would rather you use Drive and so on. Depending on your needs, you may need to budget for cloud storage for your work team as part of a smartphone office suite rollout.
Do you really need to pay (or pay more?)
There’s a certain element of context that has to be brought to this question, as there are plenty of apps that will handle simple productivity tasks for free. Equally, for example, if all you need to do is review documents on the go, rather than add to them, many of the mail clients built into mobile operating systems will handle a simple preview process without issue.
Office 365 is the obvious standard bearer for a situation where you may already be paying for access to a productivity suite that also exists for smartphones to use, again within the constraints of a given smartphone’s hardware. Microsoft has now extended the accessibility of the suite across both iOS and in preview form for Android. Likewise, if you’re paying for Google Apps for Work, you’ve already got access to a wide range of productivity tools that also encompasses mobile use.