When the pandemic forced a sudden shift to working from home, companies adopted a plethora of new virtual meeting and collaboration apps. On any given day, one meeting might be in Microsoft Teams and another in Webex, followed by interactions on another app entirely—perhaps Zoom, BlueJeans or GoToMeeting.
Using so many apps for the same purpose not only leads to problems in hosting and attending meetings, but also can bring about workplace confusion and disgruntled employees.
App overuse may be a sign that Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) are entering management. Raised on the power of computers and applications, app-happy CEOs embrace automation and software-enabled workflows. One media company in the Northeast, for example, had the founder's son grab the reins and immediately begin the digital transformation of the business. Although adding new apps can be beneficial in many ways, the downside is that employees are struggling to keep up with the rollout of a new app each month.
Employees will begin to revolt, whether against too many apps or too many platforms in use for the same function. Nadir Ali, CEO of Inpixon, a data intelligence company, believes the time has come for more of what he calls platform singularity.
"Having too many disparate applications and platforms can waste time, impede productivity and deliver a poor experience," Ali said. "Employees of large organizations may have 10 or more work-related apps, each with a different user interface and operating characteristics. Simply finding the desired app can be a chore, and switching apps can interrupt the user's workflow."
His company uses application programming interfaces and software development kits to help integrate functions into a single mobile app, providing a more streamlined workplace experience. Inpixon offers more than 75 prebuilt integrations with third-party solutions such as Microsoft's Active Directory and Exchange, Google's G-Suite, Slack and other virtual collaboration tools.
"Communication and transparency are key to effective human resource management, especially in a hybrid work world," Ali said. "Employees need to be armed with the right resources and information to make the best possible decision for their workday."
Combining workflows into one centralized app is one approach. Another is to reduce the number of applications in use.
At CDW, a provider of integrated information technology solutions and services, enterprise collaboration consultant Ozzie Vargas believes "organized chaos" is the most apt term for the number of collaboration tools, platforms and apps employees are using.
He has seen collaboration environments evolve in an ad hoc manner rather than as the result of strategic decisions. In many cases, companies end up failing to adopt the tools that are best aligned to their business goals and existing information technology environment.
His recommendation is to review business priorities and the challenges the business is trying to address, then isolate key use cases that will drive desirable business outcomes. That means a detailed evaluation, either done internally or with outside help.
"Through this process, businesses can reduce costs, optimize operations, and fuel growth and innovation," Vargas said.
Paul Gentile, senior director of product marketing for GoToMeeting, agrees that too many tools can be a distraction. But don't miss out on the opportunity to establish a deep relationship with one provider that can then invest time and energy in understanding your business.
Just as a project can be derailed when too many people are involved, using too many apps with the same or similar function can throw a business into disorder.
"Get together and ask hard questions about what people need in order to better work together," Gentile said.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer in Clearwater, Fla., specializing in IT and business.