Technology   //   December 12, 2022  ■  5 min read

We are swimming in work apps, and it’s only going to get worse

Businesses are swimming in software apps and systems, so much so that employees waste nearly one-third of the workweek trying to find the right information, according to a new study by Forrester and workplace software development firm Airtable.

Business processes are more fractured than leaders may think due to this preponderance of tech tools, which can lead to poor decision making, more errors and weaker team morale and revenue, according to the study based on a survey of 1,000 business decision makers in the U.S. and U.K. The study found that large organizations use 367 software apps and systems on average and revealed that the top reason employees feel disengaged is that having to juggle all these tools makes it too hard for them to find the information they need to do their jobs. 

The study maintains that data silos, manual workflows and tools for functions like email and spreadsheets hamstring organizations, as they rely on multiple sources of information, hide critical data and make it harder than ever to get work done.

“We live in a world where people have unlimited software solutions to carry out their day-to-day work, yet this explosion of task-specific tools comes at a significant cost to most organizations’ efficiency,” said Anthony Maggio, director of product management at Airtable. “To overcome organizational silos and improve discovery and connections, organizations need to empower teams to create connected apps on top of shared, real-time data. Connected apps help teams across the organization so they can achieve operational excellence and ambitious business outcomes.”

A separate study from OnePoll and enterprise search platform Glean addressed the importance of access to information in the workplace and the connection between employees having clarity at work making them happier and more productive.

The average respondent in the survey of 2,000 professionals in the U.S. said they use 11 different apps and platforms in their day-to-day work — between email, messaging platforms, project management tools and so on. On average, employees must search for documents or other information 35 times per week, or about seven times every day. The typical worker will spend 13 minutes searching on their own before asking for help, adding up to nearly a full workday of potentially wasted time every week. More than 4 in 10 (42%) of those surveyed said the information they need to do their jobs is scattered across different platforms. 

“To really thrive at work, we need an easy way to find answers to our questions, to access information wherever it is stored, and to stay connected, not just to company knowledge, but also to one another,” said Arvind Jain, cofounder and CEO of Glean. “It’s empowering to have a sense of clarity and alignment on shared goals. We’re happier and more fulfilled when we’re able to contribute effectively.”

As companies have invested in bigger tech stacks to support their teams, company growth and shifting work patterns, many leaders seem to be recognizing that they may have adopted too many tools too fast, said Ken Babcock, cofounder and CEO of Tango, a workplace knowledge-sharing platform. “Every organization and team is different, but I strongly believe that companies can only operate at their best when they find the right balance between people, process and technology,” he said.

Considering the rapid adoption of tech tools during the pandemic, rare is the company today that has a clear understanding of how employees use these tools or what they need from them, said Stanley Huang, cofounder and CTO of client management platform Moxo. “As customers, we have become used to seamless and intuitive interactions, but as employees stepping into the workplace, we are often met with a different experience,” he said. He suggested doing away with outdated legacy systems in favor of technology that provides a “one-stop experience” to reduce the number of touch points to access information and promote efficiency. 

Adam Riggs, CEO of virtual space platform Frameable, offered the following advice to organizations looking to better manage the ever-growing array of apps:

Create a centralized system for managing apps

This could include creating a set of approved applications, and a process for vetting and onboarding new apps. This will help to ensure that only the most necessary and beneficial apps are used, and that teams are aware of which apps are available and how to use them.

Provide training and support for all apps

This will help ensure that teams have the necessary knowledge and skills to use each app effectively and the opportunity to provide feedback on usage. Make sure to address different adult learning styles while supporting accessibility for all your workers wherever they may be located and whatever tools they use to do their work.

Provide training and support for all apps

This will help reduce the need to switch between apps and will ensure that teams can access the data and information they need quickly and easily. For example, a virtual office platform may be able to integrate with your existing Microsoft Teams calendar, video and chat capabilities creating a more seamless and connected experience. Look for platforms that make it easy for individual workers to use the tools they need to get their work done without requiring everyone on the team to maintain logins they use in view-only mode.

Meanwhile, it looks like the list of apps and systems adopted by businesses will only continue to grow. According to a survey by Rep Data and work operating system Monday.com, more than half of information technology decision makers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia increased their software budgets this year, with even more planning to do so in 2023. And yet, 80% of the specialists agree that tech stacks are in need of change.