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The Case for Native Apple iOS Applications à la Carte

Feature Article | March 1, 2017 by Siegmar Siegel

For Swiss Post’s Real Estate division, the electronic travel expense report is about to become an integral part of its digital workflow. Mobile staff will rely on the speed and convenience of a native Apple iOS app to securely submit items such as restaurant receipts to the payroll accounting department for reimbursement. iOS is the preferred platform for workforce mobility at Swiss Post.

Swiss Post is the national postal service of Switzerland. Owned by the Swiss Confederation, the company generates more than eight billion Swiss francs in annual revenue and employs some 62,000 staff, making it one of the largest employers in the country.

Many of the employees working at Swiss Post’s Real Estate division are field service technicians. Their tasks include maintenance work at distributed facilities owned or operated by Swiss Post. Typical routine jobs range from the installation of WLAN routers in office buildings to scheduled maintenance and repair of automatic barriers at parking facilities. Field staff’s travel expense reports used to consist of printed receipts taped to sheets of paper. These paper-based reports had to be collected, keyed in and aggregated for reimbursement via the Swiss Post payroll process.

Digital Service Delights Users

“The idea to switch from paper to an app originally came from our HR department within Swiss Post’s Real Estate Management and Services division in the fall of 2016,” recalls Kai Habighorst, SAP solution architect at Swiss Post. At a staff meeting where new labor contracts were being discussed, an employee suggested that an app should be used to replace the cumbersome handling of paper receipts. With new labor contracts due to take effect as of January 1st of this year, there was no time to lose.

It took software developers at the company’s IT organization as little as 25 days to create the SAP Fiori based app for accurate “as billed” travel expense claims in German, French, Italian and English. In the words of a senior executive at the Real Estate division of Swiss Post: “The solution was live on January 1. That’s simply fantastic!”

Thanks to the app, filing a travel expense is as straight-forward as paying for a meal. And it makes life a lot easier for back office staff as well. The app seamlessly integrates with the Swiss Post payroll application. There is no need for accounting staff to handle creased, crumpled or worn paper receipts that have been “on the road” for a while.

The User’s Angle

You’re part of a mobile workforce. No matter how digital your business might be, chances are that you will happily return to the analog world for lunch or dinner with your coworkers. Once you’ve enjoyed your meal, you might just grant yourself a latte macchiato – crowned with a sprinkle of that world-famous Swiss chocolate. Then it’s time to settle the bill. The waiter will hand you the usual paper receipt. But from today, you will no longer put it into your wallet. You will simply use the travel expense app on your iOS smartphone to take a picture of the bill, type in the amount you paid and then press the “Send” button to forward the ticket to the payroll accounting department. That’s all. Enjoy your meal – then enjoy the reimbursement.

Elegant, Pragmatic, Cost-Effective

The travel expense app was instantly popular with the company’s digital natives who are accustomed to the intuitive user interface of devices running Apple iOS. Informal surveys confirm that the company’s more senior employees were equally keen on switching from paper to this elegant little app to save time and effort. And because people don’t usually eat out alone, the app even lets them split bills. Optionally, roaming staff can use the GPS sensor of their smart phone to auto-detect the location of their eatery. However, pragmatism prevails; Swiss Post employees are free to resort to paper receipts as a fallback.

Strategic Decision for Native Apple iOS

Think big, start small. The travel expense app is currently being used by some 500 staff at Swiss Post’s Real Estate division. Following its successful pilot deployment on native iOS, the travel expense app, and other HR related apps that may follow, will have the potential to deliver on the mobility needs of up to 28,000 users across the company.

Thanks to the SAP Cloud Platform Software Developer Kit for iOS (SDK for iOS), the IT organization at Swiss Post was able to port the app to native Apple iOS in less than two weeks. The native iOS app receives excellent ratings for its usability and performance. “Apple iOS is not simply one of the most popular mobile platform for our users. In combination with SAP Cloud Platform, it supports us in meeting our stringent enterprise security requirements,” Kai Habighorst explains. “Like any other payroll-related documentation, travel expense reports have to be tamper-proof.”

Based on the positive experience with the travel expense project, Kai Habighorst sees considerable potential for leveraging the SAP Cloud Platform in future projects to simplify life for IT and enable faster and more flexible development of (SAP-based) business applications. It will continue to play a key role in the digitization strategy at Swiss Post.

Photos: Swiss Post

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