by Marc Wright
T-Systems Multimedia Solutions creates and manages collaborative networks for some of Germany’s largest companies as well as others around the world. They are part of the huge Deutsche Telecom family and related directly to the company T-Systems. So when it comes to their own collaboration what kind of a network do they rely on? Particularly when your audience work for one of the largest web agencies in Europe and are very web savvy.
As befits a company with deep roots in mobile comms they did not only focus on developing the laptop intranet solution based on Confluence. Instead they also launched MyMMS – a mobile employee app solution from Staffbase, which sits besides the corporate intranet. The app is read on people’s own smartphones – but because they belong to a mobile phone group staff have over two gigibytes of data available to them each month. This means that MyMMS does not depend on wifi coverage; an enviable state of affairs that we hope will come to all in the not too distant future.
“MyMMS helps us to reach those employees who are not in office on a daily basis. Our employees use the app to read corporate news on the train, at the airport, in the hotel or at home,” says Susann Wanitschke, Internal Communications Manager at T-Systems MMS. “We are not only breaking the mould for our customers. Our employees and colleagues should also benefit from creative innovations. An employee app enriches work life in many respects. We want to replace the intranet for company news, so that the intranet becomes purely a working place for employees.”
Doubling user numbers
The platform was first piloted September 2015 with three channels and 400 users during an internal event Innovation Barcamp called Digital Life Camp. (A Barcamp is a form of Unconference – where the content is more free-flowing than the typical corporate conference). The app made it possible for employees to see articles and videos on innovation where they could express their opinion in comments or likes. Also, the app was used as a feedback channel during the innovation debate.
“The purpose of MyMMS is to provide all employees with timely company news. In the first six months, the content was also enhanced by the ever-popular canteen menus, current IT news and videos of company communications.
“Creating new content is super easy as is the usability of the app. Exclusive content and gadgets like an online Advent calendar put the cherry on the cake.”
Within a short period of time the user numbers have almost doubled: MyMMS is just coming up for its first birthday and more than a thousand of the company’s 1700 staff in Germany use it regularly – that’s a healthy adoption rate north of 60%.
The employee app was also integrated into the annual kick-off meeting in January 2016, where it was the key channel for all information before, during and after the event. Another innovation is a lifestyle channel “ZAZU” named after the garrulous bird from Disney’s movie The Lion King. This non-work forum puts the employee at the centre of attention with information that they want such as where the best hotels and gyms are around each office location. And a company-wide betting game during the European football championship also helped drive adoption.
It was used again earlier this month for a second Barcamp and was considered a big success for the App. Participants could arrange their time schedule and rate the different sessions via the MyMMS App.
Apple – and other obstacles
“Creating a successful employee app was and is not always easy. Our scheduled release was delayed because Apple’s App Store said “No”. The reason: Our icon seemed to be similar to a logo for an Apple product. We were flattered to be considered too cool for Apple, so we developed a new icon and only suffered a short delay.”
But a new icon was the least of their challenges. Susann identifies two key barriers that they have had to overcome: data security and the concerns of the Works Council.
“Ensuring the trade-off between cool and highly relevant use cases and data security is one of the biggest challenges we are facing right now. We have to satisfy our Data Security Board in a company where compliance is of the utmost importance.”
But Susann has some crucial advice for communicators who face the ever-tightening restrictions of data security:
“If they object just do it because the employees will get behind it. When you have enough success you will have arguments to show that colleagues want your channel and will use it. You just have to do it. We started with a pilot and now we have such good feedback that security cannot shut us down. In the 21st century there is a technical solution for every problem, so don’t take ‘No’ for an answer.”
The power of push notifications
Another interesting finding was how notifications can drive readership. Susann and her team believe that the right push notification at the right time can increase readership significantly, but it is a delicate balance: the Works Council is loathe to have the company pushing out messages Big Brother style 24/7.
“We made an agreement with the Works Council that we can send as many push notifications as we want between 9am and 5pm. But since we don’t want to annoy or spam our employees, we only send a maximum of one notification a day, mostly every second day. According to our statistics, pushed contributions are read up to three times more often than other news. The teaser for a push notification (currently it is the title of the article) plays an important role and we find that funny or thrilling teasers are opened more often.
“But the time the push notifications are sent influences the reading rate. Does the employee have enough time to read the news or are they already too busy working? Once the employee unlocks their phone e.g. for a call, the teaser is no longer shown on the start screen and falls into oblivion, meaning you only have one chance to get it right. So we push directly before lunch or just before they leave work. That way they get the news when they have time and opportunity to read it.”
This is just the start for MyMMS:
“A lot will happen in the future. We are looking forward to the new chat feature for employees as well as an integrated calendar for internal and external events. Integrating contact data of all employees and own channels for company locations will further increase the usability of the app. In order to better adapt the functionality of the app to the user requirements, we have conducted a company-wide survey. We are already implementing some suggestions like features for subscribing to channels or adding favourite news to a personal reading list.”