There’s no question that mobile technology is changing work. But what about mobile apps? They aren’t just for consumers anymore. James Quiqley, CEO of Canvas, shares his thoughts about mobile apps in the workplace, as well as a captivating way to create a culture of engagement.

How have mobile apps changed business?

We’re seeing an amazing revolution of businesses skipping an entire generation of technology because of mobile apps. What started as cool and trendy features for your personal mobile phone have morphed into essential business tools that are escalating the adoption of technology across core components of business, especially for small and mid-sized companies.

Why mobile over traditional technology?

There are two things taking place that are driving businesses to adopt mobile technology. First, what’s happening with mobile apps is similar to what happened in Asia when mobile phones were introduced. Wired phones in Asia were incredibly expensive so people skipped the technology. Then cell phones came out. They were hassle free and cost effective, so people adopted them really fast, faster than most parts of the world.

Technology has been around for a while, but it can be confusing, hard to work with and expensive, so companies forgo rolling it out. For example, 95 percent of businesses use paper as the predominant means to collect information remotely. This doesn’t mean they don’t use technology, but they use paper more. Think about the plumber that comes to your house, or when you register a child for school, paper is the central way to collect data. There have been solutions to automate these types of functions for a long time, but they have been wildly expensive. Mobile apps have changed all that.

The second component of this trend is the customization of technology and the do-it-yourself idea. Today you can find a pre-built mobile solution for just about any business application. A business no longer has to purchase a packaged solution that limits what they can do or that only operates on a specific platform. They can select an app, customize it, and integrate it into their systems. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do it.

Beyond using technology, how can you develop a culture of engagement?

Empathy. If you can train your people to be empathetic toward your customer they will be able to better connect and understand them. Employees need to be taught how to think from a customer perspective. Empathy forces your employees to think about your product differently, which leads to greater innovation.

In today’s business you have to keep ahead of the customer. Your employees have to think like them. Most businesses approach product development in labs or silos. They get their ideas from a few select groups of people. As the organization grows, innovation and product development gets further removed from the customer. When you put your employees in a position where they can put themselves in the customer’s shoes, amazing innovation results.

At Canvas, we encourage our employees to give our products away for free to nonprofits of their choice. Then we ask them to donate their time to go work with the organization to better implement our technology. And we’ll cover their travel expenses. When employees become immersed in an organization, they suddenly understand their pain points and come back with more innovative ideas how to better use our product and how it can be used to improve the lives of others. This is how we create a culture of empathy.

We’ve had employees go as far as Africa and Australia to do this. Employees, especially millennials, want to be inspired. They want to feel like they are making an impact. If you allow your employees to connect with customers through empathy they will be more passionate and motivated about their work.

About James Quigley and Canvas

As CEO of Canvas, James Quigley is creating a culture of empathy that’s disrupting the status quo for how business gets done.

His company Canvas creates cloud-based software and mobile applications that have changed the way companies collect, share and integrate their information.