Before we start, close your eyes and take 10 seconds to count how many apps you use at your workplace every day. Chances are you’ll not finish counting even if I give you a minute. The internet revolution at the turn of the 21st century was seen as a promising light in dramatically increasing the productivity of businesses and labor, taking Industry 3.0 to the next level. And it did. But in the last couple of years, a new challenge emerged with the proliferation of SaaS and mobile apps - the problem of app overload - workers having to deal with too many apps at the workplace.
A report by Pegasystems shows that the average employee switches between 35 job-critical applications more than 1,100 times every day. Another study done by Netspoke revealed that enterprises use an average of 1,295 cloud services. A survey by RingCentral noted that 69 percent of workers waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps. These data points paint a picture of the high cognitive load a modern worker has to endure while dealing with a slew of apps. It inhibits their ability to pay attention, make good decisions, and adhere to a schedule, impacting their overall productivity.
App overload - Sign of a missing strategic roadmap
Unlike the old days when software adoption was centrally controlled by the IT teams, modern technologies have decentralized the use of software across departments. This is because modern software allows you to get up and running in minutes, without the need to write a single line of code or contacting your IT team. What used to take weeks, now takes minutes to accomplish.
But decentralization gives rise to another major challenge - apps used across the organization aren’t tied to a strategic roadmap.
The lack of a strategic roadmap means departments use different apps for the same purpose, instead of one app across the organization. This increases the cost of licenses. In other instances, multiple licenses are bought across the organization for the same app and the organization is double-charged because of the lack of central monitoring.
Beyond the financial concerns, let’s consider two other elements that negatively affect both worker’s productivity and organizational integrity…
1. Dealing with a nexus of login credentials
With every new application, a worker has to manage a new set of login credentials. For the ease of management, they end up using the same passwords across multiple applications which introduces serious security vulnerabilities. A recent research by SecureAuth showed that 53 percent of workers use the same password for different accounts. If one app is compromised, it can act as a single point of failure with a cascading effect, opening access to all other apps using the same login credentials.
This also brings in the question of compliance for the organizations. In industries like healthcare and financial services where sensitive user data has to be protected and compliances like HIPAA and PCI DSS are strictly adhered to, the lack of central access management and letting workers manage it on their own will likely get the organization in hot water.
Thankfully, there are specialized apps to help manage the numerous set of login credentials for workers i.e. Single Sign-On software (SSO), and apps that allow organizations to manage authorization levels to the business-critical resources i.e. Identity and Access Management (IAM) software. Oftentimes, both these services are included in a single suite of applications.
Single Sign-On software like Okta and OneLogin allows administrators to create a single identity (one login credential) that can be used to login into a plethora of cloud, mobile, and on-premise applications, eliminating the need to manage multiple insecure passwords.
Password managers like LastPass constitute another set of applications that work similarly to a SSO solution but instead of creating a unified identity, it allows you to store individual login credentials of each app and gets you in by automatically filling them out at the login screen without the need to remember or type out the passwords manually.
Identity & Access Management software adds another layer on top of SSO solutions by giving administrators a simplified interface to enforce strong password policies, manage the user level permissions, and automatically generate audit logs for compliance.
Together, SSO and IAM solutions reduce the cognitive load of workers, thereby increasing their productivity while making sure the compliance burden of the organization is met to avoid legal repercussions.
2. Overcoming data silos
With the use of multiple applications it is natural that data gets stored at different locations. A typical business might use Google Workspace to store files and information, a helpdesk software like Zendesk to manage customer queries, a CRM like Salesforce to manage its sales pipeline, and a tool like Slack for internal communication. At the end of the day, when a piece of specific information is required by a worker, they’d have to access different applications to gather all the data. Switching between the apps and navigating these data silos can frustrate workers and result in the loss of customers if the right information is not obtained in a time-sensitive situation.
Some of this frustration can be alleviated by using the inbuilt integrations available in applications to connect with other third-party apps. However, few applications host this functionality, and then too it’s not necessary that you’ll find integration support for all the applications you use in your organization. Therefore, this approach is only half useful.
The data silos also add to the cost of organizations because they have to hire workers to manually transfer data from one system to the other, which further introduces errors and inefficiencies.
An ideal solution to this productivity problem is offered by workflow automation platforms that offer pre-built integrations between popular apps so a one-way or two-way data sync can be established. This cuts down the requirement of developing custom integrations which are time consuming and resource-heavy.
Moreover, there’s another advantage - while simple one-to-one integrations have limited use-cases, an automation platform also allows you to create complex workflows using multiple apps, triggered using advanced logic conditions. For example, if a new lead comes through Facebook Lead Ads, you can create a nuanced workflow to send the lead information to your CRM and to your email marketing software while an email is automatically triggered from your Gmail account after 1 hour. This kind of automation unleashes real productivity for workers. It eliminates the hassle of manually transferring data between multiple platforms and gets rid of the repetitive non-cognitive tasks.
While the democratization of app usage has shortened the project delivery timelines, it has also introduced a trojan horse that is turning out to be a silent productivity killer. For organizations who take this seriously, practical solutions are available which will contribute to the long-term mental health and productivity of their workforce. Adopting the solutions may not be completely straightforward but organizations that understand its long-term impact and adopt it as a strategic initiative will benefit tremendously.
Ashok Gudibandla, CEO, Automate.io