The EmployBridge apps: A case study in mobile platform excellence

by: | Aug 28, 2018

We recently wrote about the importance of platform thinking in enterprise app development. A great example of a mobile platform done right: our work with EmployBridge.

EmployBridge is the largest U.S. based industrial staffing organization — the leader in an estimated $161B industry. The company owns 16 staffing brands serving different industries. EmployBridge saw an opportunity to further their lead by mobilizing this industry — in a big way. When EmployBridge team members came to ArcTouch, they didn’t want us to build just a single great app. They wanted many great apps, for several brands, and for both iOS and Android.

And that’s what they got. With our mobile platform approach, we’re able to enhance, test, and deploy new versions of their iOS and Android applications with every agile sprint. That’s 12 new versions in the app stores every 2 weeks for ProLogistix, ResourceMFG, Select Staffing, Remedy, Westaff, and RemX! This gives EmployBridge the flexibility to respond to changing customer and user needs without delay.

“We had an incredibly ambitious vision, and ArcTouch was instrumental in architecting a mobile platform that scaled beautifully,” said Chris Loope, the chief digital officer of EmployBridge. “The apps deliver a great user experience and help us solve a real problem — but none of that would have been possible without some savvy platform thinking.”

5 ingredients for a successful mobile center of excellence

The problem EmployBridge solved through apps

The process of filling a staffing need can be painfully slow and requires a lot of administrative effort.
Traditionally, clients would come to EmployBridge asking for a certain number of staff, with a specific set of skills, in a particular location. Then a recruiter would perform a search in a database of qualified candidates. Once candidates were identified, emails and individual phone calls would begin until the recruiter received commitments from the number of candidates needed. Then there would be a process of individually communicating more details to those candidates — including shift time, location, dress code, required protective equipment, and more.

The app accelerates the process in two ways. After the candidates are identified, the app can send a mobile notification to all qualified candidates at once. Those candidates confirm interest within the app until all the available positions are filled. Second, the position’s details are preloaded into the app — so the need for individual communication after that commitment is reduced. Speed and accuracy are increased, time to fill open positions is decreased, and people looking for jobs are placed faster than ever. EmployBridge’s client needs are met much more efficiently.

For the employees who have been placed on an assignment, the app also sends payday notifications and provides direct access to their pay stub information.

The technology and mobile platform

When we started the project, the first challenge we faced was creating a technical foundation that would scale across all of EmployBridge’s brands. EmployBridge already had a well-defined multi-brand data architecture from Credera, the company’s long-term back-end development partner. Its team members built a robust API, providing our apps access to all the information we needed. They have been great collaborators throughout this process, allowing us to focus on what we do best: creating a world-class mobile experience.

Our focus was on choosing a development platform that allowed us to write code once and reuse it across many different releases. That choice was easy — our experienced Xamarin developers knew Microsoft’s Xamarin was the best path to deliver the many related releases we needed to build efficiently. But there was another big reason to choose Xamarin early in the process.

As we planned for managing 12 releases after launch, having the application code base written entirely in C# and using one IDE (Visual Studio) was a huge advantage — making Xamarin clearly the best option. (Our Xamarin development lead on this project, Oberdan Ferreira, recently wrote about why Xamarin is great for cross-platform app maintenance.)

Of course, the technology is just one part of the mobile platform we created for this project. Equally important was the DevOps engineering approach we included in the development process. The sheer scope of this project — building and updating 12 apps in the iOS App Store and Google Play, simultaneously, every two weeks — was ambitious. This forced our team to really analyze and experiment with how we managed our sprints — specifically, how we structured our design/dev/test/release cycle until we found a stable, reliable pace of continuous improvement.

User testing paves the way to great UX — and app ROI

While much credit is due to our technical team and our mobile platform-oriented process, even the best engineering efforts don’t matter if an app design fails to address the business opportunity. As the product manager, I am incredibly proud of how our team delivered on this app’s core promise: to help good people get good jobs faster.

During the design and initial development phase, ArcTouch team members and colleagues at EmployBridge performed formal user tests with job candidates to gain feedback on key features. Beyond the formal interviews, we kept a regular dialog with members of the target audience during development and since launch. This constant and close connection has helped make user-centered thinking core to how our team operates.

And we’re happy with the return on investment EmployBridge has already experienced. These are early days but combined, nearly 500,000 people have downloaded the apps in the first few months on the market. And, the app store reviews have been very positive.

One of my favorites:

“This app is absolutely amazing! It is efficient, convenient and easy to use. Everything is at the palm of your hands, talk about maximum utility and the proverbial destiny is in your hands. This app allows you to plan your work, time and life schedule accordingly. It is simply fantastic.”

Understanding user needs and concerns continue to drive the roadmap from now on. The first release’s initial focus was largely on placing people on the job and preparing them for their first day.

Now the focus is extending communication with employees throughout the duration of their assignment. For example, we recently added a new feature to send satisfaction surveys (using notifications) throughout the course of a job. The employee can fill out a quick Uber-style rating to let EmployBridge’s teams know how things are going. If they raise concerns, EmployBridge’s team is notified of the issue and works to address them immediately, ensuring that both the employees and clients remain happy.

Looking ahead, the team and I remain excited about our continued partnership with EmployBridge as a leader in the staffing industry’s digital evolution.

Thinking about creating a mobile platform?

If you’re thinking about creating apps for your customers or employees, check out our latest ebook, “5 ingredients for a successful mobile center of excellence,” where we explain the keys to building mobile apps at scale.