Colleagues is a new iPhone app from Taptera that aims to beautify the mostly mundane and ugly world that is corporate employee directories. The app is free to download, however Taptera charges a fee for using the service. Your IT team would need to then configure your company’s LDAP or Active Directory connection parameters through the Taptera web-based Admin Console to work with the Colleagues app. I also contacted the Taptera team for some details about the pricing and setup for companies, since their website does not list any information about it. I did get a response from the co-founder quickly which was a good sign. Basically, companies buy licenses for their corporate systems on a per user per month basis, and pricing varies based on volume. You can also use the app in a “demo” mode to try it out, which is what I had to do for this review, so it focuses solely on the user interface and navigation of the Colleagues app. If you have experience setting up or using Colleagues on an actual company directory, share your experience below.
Once the app authenticates you, it will sync the directory information and update any contact changes from the server.
The main screen lists any available Groups (Departments), which you can customize and create for yourself as well. Creating a groups is simple and you just give it a name and tap the users you want to add to the group. If you have a huge company, you can also search for users by name to add them. Once you’re in a group you can either SMS all the members, or send a mass email to all its members right from your iPhone. You can also easily edit groups to manage members. The groups don’t actually get a unique email address. The app just composes a native email with all the recipients in the To field. I’m not sure if mailing lists are supported by the Colleagues app.
The user detail page in the app looks pretty slick, especially if you’re used to ugly Exchange directory panes in Outlook or dry LDAP websites. One of the coolest features of the app is that you can take a picture on your iPhone and and upload it to the server to use as your profile picture. No more having an outdated ugly badge picture in the directory. There are a ton of other features in this user page. Here are the actions you can take: Call, Email, SMS, Map, Directions, and FaceTime. You can also “Star” your frequently used peeps for faster access from the main screen. Finally you can add anyone to your native Contacts app or share a vCard file via email.
One final neat feature of the Colleagues app is the ability to view org chart info. On the bottom of any profile page, including your own, there are two additional tabs: Team and Ladder. Tap the Team tab and view the Manager, Peers and her direct reports. Tap the Ladder tab and you’ll find a very simple and easy to understand layered chart showing the employee all the way up to the Chairman, CEO or Founder with all their connections in between.
Colleagues is a universal app and takes full advantage of the iPad screen. On the iPad, you get a split pane with groups on the left and details on the right. The info pane is split into 4 areas, including a map, a large photo, a business card, and a tabbed manilla style folder with all the extended contact info. The user experience and graphics are well though out and perfectly implemented here.
Overall, Colleagues is an upgrade for any enterprise that delivers clean up and simplification of historically dull corporate directories. Consider taking a plunge and trying it out. It will definitely giving your iOS engaged employees a pretty good selling point to love your company a bit more, and might even increase transparency and productivity.
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