With ever-increasing numbers of office employees working remotely – the amount doubling over the past decade – technology has needed to keep pace, in order to maintain productivity. The two biggest areas of innovation that have impacted employees’ ability to work remotely are the increasing move of enterprise software to the cloud, and the continued growth of mobile devices’ capabilities. With the growing prevalence of SaaS, what previously required users to sit at an office-based workstation to do, using software installed and configured by the IT team, can now be done just as effectively on any laptop, tablet and even mobile phone.
One challenge that many organisations face when deploying software is how it will be accessed by employees on a mobile device, in order to give the best experience for their user. There are two approaches for this: first is a native app, downloaded from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store (and in increasingly rare instances from BlackBerry World and Microsoft’s app store). The second is a web app, which can simply be accessed through the user’s browser on the mobile or tablet. At first glance, the two may look the same: they can both be accessed by clicking an icon on the device’s home screen and they both allow users to perform a number of tasks on their device. However, there are several key differences between the two approaches which can impact how beneficial these solutions are across the enterprise, and in particular, how they alter an organisation’s ability to process invoices in a timely manner.
1. No difference in look-and-feel
While some users will have the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, other users will have older, smaller, mobile phones possibly with less up-to-date operating systems. Others may prefer to process their invoices out of the office on a tablet. Some will simply stick to their laptop. Whichever way they access the solution, a web app will give them the same look and feel. By building a web app using HTML5 and incorporating responsive web design, it will scale perfectly to the size, orientation and operating system/browser being used, and will give an identical user experience to everyone.
Compare this to a native apps, which could offer a distinctly different experience on different devices. Why is this important? From an end-user’s perspective, it’s a pain having to learn how to use the system when it has two – sometimes quite different – interfaces. From an administrative viewpoint, it makes deployment and support more of a challenge, as various versions of an app could have different bugs and support issues.
2. Increased range of functionality
Whereas web apps do their processing in the cloud, native apps’ processing is done on the device itself. In order for native apps to be of a manageable size, they need to strip out significant amounts of functionality. This isn’t the case for web apps. As users are accessing the full version each time, they get every single bit of functionality, regardless of what device they use. No more “I’ll need to get back to the office to do that.”
3. Greater security
Corporate invoices can contain a broad range of sensitive corporate information, which could cause considerable business or reputational harm if allowed to fall into the wrong hands. As a result, storing these documents within a native app on a mobile device could lead to significant security holes. Accessing an invoice on a mobile via a web app removes this concern, however, as users simply see an image in the browser window. As soon as they close the window, the image – and the invoice – have gone. So if a user’s mobile device is either lost or stolen, there is no potential for your confidential data to fall into the wrong hands.
4. Focus on innovation
The best, most agile, apps have frequent updates and releases, to continually improve the end-user experience. Whether this is adding new languages to the system, improving or launching a certain piece of functionality, or simply a good old bug fix, leading cloud software vendors can have new releases as frequently as once or twice a month. Users who access these solutions in the cloud with a web app can be assured that they will have access to new innovation as soon as it comes out. However, those who use a native app will need to wait for the functionality to be coded into the app (if at all – not all new features are included in a native app), and it then needs to be approved by Apple/Google, before being made available to users. This could take several weeks for each new version, meaning that mobile users are always behind the curve for innovation.
5. And what about offline approvals?
While the prevalence of high-speed cellular networks and public wi-fi hotspots means that mobile users are nearly always online, there are still some times when an individual is offline. Chrome River’s invoice automation solution allows invoices to be approved even when the user is offline, by enabling invoices to simply be reviewed and approved from an email that’s automatically sent out. As soon as the device is back within range, the email automatically sends, and the approval and payment process continues.
So, regardless of whether your invoice approvers and AP team are frequently out of the office, or may simply need to access the solution on a mobile device a couple of times a year, you can rest assured that however they access the system, a web app for invoices will make their life easier, and keep the invoice payment process flowing smoothly.
Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.