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Slash the maddening app clutter with a digital workplace

(Image credit: Image Credit: Bbernard / Shutterstock)

You’re not the only one wondering, “Is this ever going to end?” Navigating the mesh of digital tools your company grabbed to survive Covid-19 is getting old.

Although apps may be keeping the business moving, it's obvious there are a lot of glitches. Work is more complicated and time-consuming than it should be. Communication is hit-or-miss at best. Visibility is terrible, and everyone is scrambling to find what they need. All the while, monthly app subscription fees climb as more apps are added to fill in gaps.

As process experts, we can make the situation worse by forcing as many processes onto a BPM platform as possible. But sometimes that’s not the best solution.

The problem with piling on apps

Cloud business apps seem like life preservers in the Covid-19 crisis. Until you have too many.

-Fragmented work

Processes are all over the place. HR uses an app for timesheet and leave management. Procurement’s app manages and tracks invoices. The marketing department organizes tasks in a project management app. Employees communicate in yet another app that’s not linked to any of the other programs.

You can’t find information because company data is spread thin across the slew of platforms. Employees are wasting time switching back and forth—up to 60 minutes a day, to be exact. Compiling reports and analytics for managers requires tedious cross-checks. The data shuffling makes errors more likely, and there's no way to get big picture data in real-time. No wonder frustration levels are through the roof.

-Missed opportunities

Psychology research reported that workers lose about 24 minutes an hour when switching tasks. The “app juggling” robs employees of time to do what they love—applying their skills and expertise in creative work.

Though everyone is trying to collaborate across the apps, policies are blurred. Employees have to decide whether to use the department app, chat app, email, or the company intranet. Questions might be bounced around a few times before even reaching the right point of contact.

Knowledge and inspiration from colleagues in other departments go untapped when no one knows what's going on outside their domain. It's a lose-lose situation all the way around.

-Digital chaos

Business apps can be user-friendly, but app overload can cause several IT problems. Every app must be separately tested and vetted for sufficient security settings. Someone has to make sure enough storage is available in each program. The support level for every app varies. Some providers offer free support, but others charge extra fees. Let's hope that when there's a snag, it's with the provider that helps users for no charge.

BPM software is a solution, but not the solution

Using BPM software can be a powerful way to bring automation to the most important processes in an organization. But BPM tools need to up their game.

BPM software will continue to be the tool of choice for high-volume, mission-critical, and highly sophisticated processes.

However, as the rest of the work is also digitized, there’s a heightened need to manage a wider variety of work. Business and department leaders need tools to manage not only processes, but also projects, collaboration, cases, and communication.

Most BPM tools don’t cross over to these other solutions and create a greater need for app switching. This leaves businesses searching for more apps to fill in the gaps. Employees must again shuffle various programs to find information, complete tasks, manage processes, and communicate. Or, when something doesn’t fit into the BPMS framework, another app is added on, with or without permission, risking shadow IT issues.

The best scenario—a digital workplace

A digital workplace allows you to keep all types of work in the same place instead of managing tons of apps. Here are a few elements of a true digital workplace.

-A central platform

A digital workplace is every department head’s first line of defense for new work that comes their way. Whether it requires having a discussion, setting up a project board, or mapping out a workflow, a digital workplace should be able to provide an elegant solution to all these situations.

When everything is on the same platform, everyone knows where to find what they need. Data is easily integrated and synched with other departments as well. It reduces the need to switch from lots of different apps.

Digital workplaces will never be able to handle 100 percent of use cases. There will always be essential processes that need a dedicated business process management solution. But BPM software should be reserved for those special processes.

-Contextual collaboration

66 percent of workers want a single, unified platform for communication to improve workflow, boost productivity, and minimize chaos. A digital workplace does just that.

Conversations are directly attached to related items. Any confusion surrounding the topic at hand or the appropriate point of contact is eliminated. Discussions not related to tasks take place in channels organized by topic. All posts are listed in a company news feed, allowing employees the chance to interact with other departments. So, instead of switching back and forth between applications, you always have your conversations centered around the work, whether it is an item in an automated workflow, or a project card waiting to be finished. Otherwise, you quickly lose track of where your conversations live.

-User-driven

However, to pull this off, the digital workplace must be extremely easy to use. No-code platforms offer the functionality of BPMS but with greater flexibility. Business leaders (or employees) select ready-made processes or build their own workflows and project boards. Instead of waiting around for management to approve a new solution, employees are empowered to solve problems on the spot.

Think long-term

When office buildings buzz with life again, some companies will continue to struggle with an armload of apps. Then there will be those who have learned a better road to digital transformation—an integrated digital workplace. The Covid-19 work-from-home is your chance to take a step ahead into the future of work. What will you do?

Dinesh Varadharajan, Vice President, Kissflow