Business Technology

How to curb the app overload

6 min read

09 July 2019

Fuelled by the rise in smartphone usage and ever-changing business needs, organisations are implementing more software applications than ever before.

Recent reports say small companies use 22 apps on average, with multinationals averaging more than 700. While the majority are deployed with the best of intentions, the explosion in the number of apps comes with a downside.

The downside of adopting too many apps

Each implementation has a cost attached. From licensing to training to security exposure and integration complexity.

Problems arise when apps don’t talk to one another. This can result in wasteful duplication of effort. Added together, these costs take a toll on a company, no matter how big or small they are.

A recent study of 2000 knowledge workers by RingCentral, a unified communication company, said 69% of users lose up to 32 days a year due to app overload.

It’s against this backdrop that industry analysts are suggesting that organisations look at their software deployments and rationalise them. But why? Well,  in order to combat what we might call “app overload.”

App overload in a nutshell

But how should a company do this?

Teams or departments can deploy applications ad-hoc. Often without formal integration into an established enterprise-wide infrastructure. The more this happens over time, the more complexity results.

Practical tips on mobile app development

Teams may use apps to get around carefully controlled systems with file transfer limitations. The convenience factor can be high. But then, so can the security, compliance, organisational productivity and privacy complications that arise.

Though Dropbox and Slack deployments are increasingly popular, instances of siloed usage remain.

This lack of integration creates a difficult cross-organisational juggling act. People often choose an app to meet a specific, narrowly-defined need.

Too much tech can inhibit productivity

Quickly deploying an app to complete a discrete task can feel like a win. But if it fails to solve, or even worsens, an underlying workflow issue, it’s useless.

For example, an app that helps transfer large files between people on a project raises the question of why they need to share files individually in the first place.

Perhaps it’s easier to have a workspace or platform that is connected to standard business workflows?

Many large organisations have turned to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms to try and integrate disparate processes. There is a good reason for this, they are powerful systems. However, they lack flexibility. They also have a monolithic structure that imposes a fixed way or working, and they are costly.

Another option is a work execution platform that helps organisations define, track and automate workflows.

These platforms tend to be lighter in functionality but more flexible than a traditional ERP. They can act as a central hub for integrating data from various solutions while managing complex processes.

Real world benefits

A great example of this concept is in distributed organisations. It can be helpful for remote workers who don’t have a company email or a computer but need access to regular updates on topics including benefits, cybersecurity alerts, and other critical information.

Fortune Brands Home & Security deployed a work execution platform to keep its workforce of approximately 23,000 people connected and productive.

To make it easy for employees to get regular information while avoiding having to deploy multiple apps, the company developed a mobile app called Connect. Using Smartsheet to drive a steady flow of brand and employee content through the app to its workforce, it has offered the company a single source of truth and a lifeline to explain what is happening across the organisation.

A work execution platform can complement and integrate with line of business systems such as CRM and ERP which are great at processing and managing business transactions. However, they lack the capability to easily manage and track work that happens in the context of these systems.

Work execution platforms

Work execution platforms that are designed and implemented this way can evolve to become an organisational capability for how work gets tracked and managed.

This holistic approach can change the way work gets done within an organisation. This can also reduce the number of apps in use.

Each organisation is different, which makes an individualised app audit a great place to start. Find out who is using what tools for what processes.

Dig deeper via user surveys to uncover critical requirements that could be met through a single tool. Or try and change the underlying workflow or process. An audit can reveal opportunities for company-wide improvement.

Look to innovation from within your teams

If a particular team discover an innovative way of working, who’s to say it can’t be replicated across departments?

With the popularity of Bring-Your-Own-Device initiatives, plus growth in teleworking, the demand for apps is unlikely to abate anytime soon.

Organisations must think strategically rather than tactically when it comes to app deployment to avoid overload and reap company-wide benefits.