19 August 2020

An employee app with character

Here at Brandwidth we practice what we preach. What I mean by that, is we solve our internal challenges, and improve the efficiency of our processes, using the same innovative and engaging methods that we apply to our client work.

One example of this is our Brandwidth employee app (catchy name pending). The app was born from a vision that our disparate collection of employee information could be brought together in an engaging and useful way. The aim was to make the information more accessible and easier to use, as well as replacing some of the slow, manual methods of data collection.

A key aim of the app was that it had to work by itself, with no admin requirements needed to keep the content up to date.  So, I set about looking at the integrations and APIs available in our existing systems, and within half a day I had a full company directory pulling through to the app with readily available contact details for all team members. From here, I carried on including additional useful bits of key information from other sources until we had a useful, easy-to-navigate ‘BW app V1’ to release to the team.

Since then the feature list has grown substantially – so substantially, in fact, that I’ll only be able to scratch the surface in this article! With a fortnightly release schedule, there’s always new ideas waiting to go live. One update my team was particularly keen on replacing was the clunky, manual methods used to manage our wide array of test devices (think clipboard, pen and paper) with something a little more modern. We’re delighted to say that the clipboard is in the bin, and phones and gadgets can now be checked out and logged by scanning branded QR codes, much like the barcode in a library book. This system also gives the added bonus of being able to identify all information associated with an unknown device without even needing to start it up. With a single click, we can all now see who has which device and reserve one whenever we need it.

Whilst integration and linking other digital systems into one place is a huge focus of the app, there are other areas of improvement to company life that cannot rely purely on existing platforms. Long before Covid-19 Brandwidth offered flexible working, including adjustable working hours and the option to work from home. As well as this, we have a workforce which is spread between primary offices in London and New York. While this ever-changing distribution of people often works to our advantage, it doesn’t come without its challenges. This is where the app really starts to come into its own.

We built a simple ‘check-in’ system that allows our team to indicate which one of 8 locations they’re working from that day (as well as nifty option to share their mood). Displaying this new information in line with the company directory instantly gives everyone in the team the ability to quickly glance at where their colleagues are on a specific day.

This new data is all well and good, but we wanted to find a playful way to visualise the information that didn’t require users to repeatedly check the app for important changes. We decided on creating a 3D world containing representations of all of our locations, along with customisable avatars for all our team members. Without a single word (or icon) on screen, you can see how many people are in each location, and also gauge the mood of the team. This virtual world is available for everyone to see on the giant TV in our kitchen, as well as an online webpage created at the start of lockdown.

Extra information, such as birthdays, events and our weekly beer o’clock are all represented through subtle animations and dynamic scene changes. This was a key step in our push to ensure Brandwidth is a fully transparent organisation, sharing everything that we can with the wider team.

Of course, with all of this location data saved into our analytics platform we have gained further insights into how we can improve things as a company. For instance, we are learning which offices are busiest on which days, whether people enjoy working from the office or from home, and which of our regular team engagement events spark the most interest – all from fully anonymised, basic information our team give us each day.

On the subject of being anonymous, one of the many other features we offer via the app is the ability to provide fully anonymous feedback to either our Executive Board or our Diversity & Inclusion Team. Since including this feature, the sheer amount of positive ideas and suggestions submitted through this tool has been fantastic, and every single one has been actioned or addressed in some way.

Almost everything mentioned in this article so far was created pre-covid, and this new way of working has required us to make tweaks here and there to ensure maximum effectiveness. But in my opinion, the app gave us a great advantage when tackling the distributed way of working that has been forced upon most of us.

Having said this, we didn’t want to rest on our laurels, so we are currently in the process of evolving the tool into more of an online hub – a dashboard, if you like. The aim is to take all of the best features, integrations, and links with other systems and create a one-stop-shop for all of our business needs. We see great potential in being able to continually optimise the way we work, and we enjoy seeing the positive changes first-hand.

Over time, the benefits our app has given us have been heard by many of our sister agencies, and as such a rollout to other organisations is now on the cards. With a few tweaks here and there, the app has been made ready for sharing with the wider world.

For me it’s an exciting evolution of a platform that has grown so much since inception a year ago, and I am really looking forward to seeing how we can further enhance it as time goes on.