Take your employee communications to the next level with your own employee app.

Top 10 IT Questions About the Staffbase Employee App

Let's assume you've been looking at the Staffbase app and you really like it. That means your next step is likely to be "talking to IT." If that's the case then this is the article for you. To help you out, here are ten of the most common questions we get during our initial talks with IT professionals. We love talking with them, because these conversations usually follow a similar trajectory: skepticism about Staffbase being “just another app” changes to real enthusiasm with the realization that it's an enterprise-ready platform built with professional IT environments in mind.

 

#1. Is this really "just an app?”

The answer is no. Staffbase is first and foremost a platform for employee communications in employee-centric organizations. It comes with ready-made components for the most important communication use cases. This includes corporate news, pages/documents, employee directory, forms, the cafeteria’s meal plan, maps, and even vacation requests. Staffbase consists of mobile-ready client apps for multiple platforms and a powerful Software-as-a-Service backend with a Content Management System (CMS), user management, security settings, and APIs. We provide native apps for iOS and Android, web apps for Blackberry, and a browser version that runs on all desktops and/or terminals.

 

Each customer gets a fully branded set of apps that include its company name and logo, and a customized launch screen. All apps are based on the same platform, and configuration is done in Staffbase’s CMS. In this way all customers use the same software and benefit from our large and ever-growing customer base, not to mention our quality assurance and maintenance processes. New features are simultaneously made available to all customers. Custom features can be developed using our set of APIs.

 

One thing about the web-based CMS: we've built it from scratch and focus solely on use cases around employee communication and services. We've demoed it to hundreds of communication and IT professionals and the unique combination of two usually incompatible characteristics—broad and powerful functionality that's nonetheless easy to use—is always met with a lot of excitement. If you haven't seen it yet we'd be happy to show you around!

 

#2: How are the Apps deployed? Can we use our MDM?

The Staffbase employee app, like most standard-product core apps, is distributed via the delivery option known as Enterprise Deployment. Customers receive a url, e.g., app.company.com/get. App downloads for iOS can be made directly from this address; Android users are guided toward the proper location for downloading the app. This deployment method provides a number of unique advantages to our clients—in regards to employee onboarding strategies, for example—and it enables great efficiency in scheduling and programming new app projects.

 

For a complete understanding of our distribution methods, please find further information in these slides.

 

As for Mobile Device Management (MDM): yes, it is possible to distribute your native apps from Staffbase through MDM. Let's talk about a specific solution for you.

 

#3: Does it integrate with existing platforms (SharePoint)?

Yes. We see two different integration scenarios:

  • There is usually some content (i.e., corporate news in your existing intranet) that should be imported into Staffbase. We support that with a content API that allows for pushing content (text, pictures, documents) to Staffbase. Because SharePoint is by far the most requested source, we decided to build a standard SharePoint connection that will work with SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint online.
  • Many of our customers use Staffbase not just as a mobile extension of existing intranets but rather as the company’s central communication hub. This is a nice move towards a more employee-centric intranet strategy where some content needs great reach (Staffbase) and some needs higher security (collaboration). Staffbase content can be imported into your “Collaboration Intranet” or an overlying intranet dashboard. We also provide a configurable Staffbase Webpart for SharePoint.

 

#4: How can we add own functionality or integrations?

Staffbase supports multiple types of custom functionality or integrations with our built-in plugin extension framework. All features are organized as plugins that can be switched on or off. Plugins can have multiple instances and each instance can be published to all users or specific user groups. You can find all available standard plugins in the Content Management System or build your own plugins only available to your apps. Plugins are created using HTML/JavaScript in the front end and can run on your own servers. Plugins can also be used to create custom integrations with your existing HR systems. Content is just one field of use for integrations. Think about HR information that’s highly relevant to employees, like vacation requests, timesheet status, or payroll notifications.

 

For the integration of external content systems, Staffbase provides a REST API which provides read and write access to news, pages, user management and other objects in Staffbase.

 

#5: How does user onboarding and management work?

This is usually one of the biggest initial topics and includes enough content for a separate article. Here is the short version.

 

Staffbase comes with built-in user management that's one of the core strengths of the product. We typically see and support very diverse requirements.

 

Here's a quick overview of the key topics:

  • Authentication: How are users invited to the platform and which credentials do they use for the first time and afterwards? These are the options:
    • Single-Sign-On (SSO), like OpenID or SAML, to use existing company accounts, for example based on Microsoft ADFS.
    • Self-service signup via @company email (users will create an individual password for Staffbase).
    • Email invitation (users will receive an invitation email including a signup link; they will create an individual password for Staffbase).
    • One-time access code (Staffbase generates access codes for your users and you can print them, send them via email, print them on payslips, etc. The access code lets users create a new account using their email address and an individual password).
    • Combination of two secrets (Employees can authenticate using, for example, a combination of employee ID and last name; no account creation is required after login).
  • User synchronisation: create, update, and delete users in Staffbase:
    • Active Directory/LDAP integration; custom-built connection via the Staffbase User API; mass import via csv (uploaded manually or automatically to API endpoint); managing users manually; or a combination of these methods.
  • Management of user groups. This is inevitable when dealing with a large number of employees but still want to deliver a personalized and truly employee-centric experience. Staffbase offers three ways to create user groups:
    • Automatic groups: theses groups are based on existing AD groups and can be automatically generated and maintained. Conditional groups: this very powerful feature allows you to use any user metadata to create and automatically maintain groups (i.e., create a group for all sales people in Boston). Manual groups: small groups (i.e., editors) can be created manually.
  • User roles and admissions:
    • Staffbase comes with global roles like admin, managing editor, editor, and user. Users can get promoted to editors for specific content such as a news channel, a page, or an employee survey. Finally, there's an author role for interactive and engaging channels in which all employees should be able to contribute. That set of roles has proven to be very flexible in handling all of the user governance requirements that we've seen so far.

 

#6: Can we configure the layout/design?

Yes, and there are several ways to do this.

  1. First, there is the native app itself. You define the name, icon, and launch screen of your app. Afterwards the apps are getting generated and prepared for deployment based on your specifications.
  2. Administrators are able to customize the layout within the app: logo, colors, a background picture for the desktop version, and a logo for the CMS dashboard.
  3. You can write your own CSS rules to further customize the look of your app and desktop experience.
  4. We can support you with even further modifications like your uniquer font or icons. Just talk to us and we'll be happy to discuss your requirements.

 

#7: Is it secure?

The roots of Staffbase are in Germany. This means we're used to dealing with some of the strictest data security and protection laws in the world and we've built Staffbase and the organization around it to fully comply with these and other international regulations. We use very strict data security and data protection measures to protect the data of our customers. Sensitive production data is never migrated or used outside of the production network.

  • Hosting. Staffbase offers two hosting options that both provide state-of-the-art security measures and certifications (DIN ISO/IEC 27001, PCI-DSS, SSAE16/ISAE3402): Our US-based environment is hosted by Microsoft Azure and our EU-based environment is hosted by Profitbricks in Germany. The usage of the Amazon Cloudfront Content Delivery Network (CDN) ensures high availability worldwide.
  • Technical platform. All connections to the Staffbase platform are secured via SSL. Any attempt to connect over HTTP is redirected to HTTPS. Only a small part of the infrastructure (REST API) is exposed to the public. The rest of the infrastructure is restricted to other servers within the infrastructure (private cloud). Only a specific group of senior staff members have access to the live infrastructure (protected by 2-factor authentication, VPN). We track all system activity and have special monitoring for suspicious activity. Our basic infrastructure parts (OS-level) leverage automatic updates for critical security patches.
  • Organization. We have a dedicated infrastructure/security team conducting regular self-reviews of our infrastructure (server + application). In addition, we allow customers to conduct their own PEN tests and use the results to improve the service for all customers. We’ve seen multiple PEN tests by clients, and none have revealed critical issues. All employees have individual passwords which we immediately remove if/when leaving the company. We have an internal data protection officer who takes care of creating and enforcing security guidelines.

 

#8: What's the typical timeline for implementing an employee-app?

Staffbase is a standard product. You can sign up and start working on your content immediately. As soon as you've provided all the necessary information, your app will be generated and prepared for distribution. This process takes approximately fifteen days. We'll work with you on any advanced integration scenarios like AD and SSO. However, we know that technology is just one part of the project. That's why we've developed a framework that helps customers run through all the required steps that make such a project successful (i.e., content, structure, user groups, onboarding, and communication plan). We're happy to share details and also offer on-site workshops to develop an implementation strategy + roadmap.

 

#9: How do you deal with support and maintenance during the run phase?

  • Maintenance of the platform:
    • Standard pricing includes all regular updates to existing functionality and bug fixes at no extra charge. This includes the ongoing adjustments based on OS (Android/iOS) changes which are often responsible for a large portion of the budgets for mobile app projects.
  • Availability of the platform:
    • We’re committed to 99.9% uptime and we've consistently met this goal. We document all service disruptions, monitor availability issues 24/7, and take immediate action if service interruptions are detected.
  • Support
    • Standard 3rd level support is included in all packages. We use a ticket system to report, monitor, and resolve all open support tickets. Support is email-based and in English (other languages are available on request). We guarantee a reply within one business day. We additionally offer premium telephone support and 1st and 2nd level support on request.
  • Partners
    • We work with a network of partners to support our customers with consulting, plugin implementation, and content services. We're also open to working with your existing technical providers.

 

#10: What’s on the Staffbase roadmap?

As you may imagine, there are plenty of improvements and new features on the horizon. Our vision is to create the leading mobile employee solution that helps companies of all sizes become truly employee-centric organizations. That’s a big vision but it's one that allows us to set priorities for our technical roadmap. We're commited to developing a wide array of engaging use cases, platform integrations, and features like search. We're happy to talk with you to understand the requirements of your specific case. 

Written by Frank Wolf

Frank is the CMO and co-founder of Staffbase. He is an intranet and communication expert with more than a decade of experience in helping companies connecting to their employees. He is passionate about internal communication and digital technologies that create enjoyable places to work.