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Is App Fragmentation Slowing Down Workplace Efficiency?

In this special guest feature, Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, observes that with so much growth in the enterprise software space, workers are now suffering from the problem of fragmentation, meaning they spend quite a bit of time searching for and aggregating information in between the apps in their company’s ecosystem. This represents a huge waste of time for businesses. He shares strategies for evaluating and connecting apps, and designing systems that solve fragmentation to give power back to workers. Andrew Filev is the CEO of Wrike, the work management platform that helps thousands of organizations become insanely productive. He has 10+ years of experience in software engineering, product management and marketing.

The average enterprise now uses over 900 cloud applications to manage its processes, and 59% of workers say the number of tools they use to work has increased in the past year. Overall, the proliferation of SaaS tools has made businesses more efficient when compared to a decade ago, but are we reaching a point where too much technology is making us less productive?

New tools and technologies are designed to help employees work smarter, but this only proves successful when the technologies are fully integrated and data remains unsiloed. Simply put, when users spend their time searching for information, copying information to a different tool or toggling between applications, the technology quickly loses its value. Workflow fragmentation causes workers to spend more time hunting for and aggregating information than actually working.

SaaS applications are a valuable component to workplace productivity, but only when they are integrated seamlessly. When IT steps in to alleviate fragmentation, it might be a long way to take technology from time-sucker to time-saver.  Maybe you are starting to reach the point of diminishing returns, where you know you have too many solutions that are actually beginning to distract workers, yet individuals find greater productivity when they can continue leveraging the tools they prefer. So where can we go from here?

1. Drive a more holistic adoption of technology.

It is IT’s job to strike a balance between finding and buying new tools, while still maintaining control of the company IP and other data. Data security obviously needs to remain a top priority, but IT should also consider which technologies and applications employees prefer to work with. Then, weighing the various inputs, recognize when there might be an opportunity to scale.

To start, workers can likely be trusted to search for and evaluate SaaS solutions that improve their workflow, like a project management application or department-specific solution. Workers understand their own needs, and when given the power to improve their own work experience, they can be much more effective in selecting the best vendors to work with. But keen IT professionals must have the eye to recognize when there is an opportunity to integrate these solutions and scale them company-wide.

Across enterprise organizations, teams might have their own budgets to select and implement tools. This means a healthy relationship between department leaders and IT is crucial to keeping data secured and integrated. IT must play the role of ensuring apps are vetted for cybersecurity standards, ToS compliance, and API compatibility, but should not be a roadblock for adoption of a technology that meets those standards and makes a team more effective. Managing integration and automation of various SaaS tools, whether deployed by individuals or entire departments, is a crucial to avoiding fragmentation and getting critical data into the hands of everyone who needs it.

2. Don’t stop at the installation.

IT should look far past installation, to integration and beyond. Once IT views applications and company technology through a holistic lens, it’s easier to think ahead to how it all works together beyond the installation phase.

To build successful, impactful solutions, IT should engage in conversations that dive deep into use workflows to identify the real pain points, and get to the heart of the problem to truly fix it, instead of pushing the adoption of additional, but less meaningful, technology. Focus on reducing user pain rather than adding new layers of process. Think about how the various pieces of the technology work together to solve for pain points at the individual, departmental and companywide levels simultaneously.

3. Think about remote workers.

One of the biggest challenges CIOs face in the years to come is handling the growth of remote work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 22% of employed persons did some or all of their work at home in 2016, and that number jumps to 43% when looking at those with education beyond a high school diploma. There are also a growing number of contractors and freelancers that provide services for companies, and they typically collaborate and obtain data from the same applications and software your full-time employees use.

IT teams are no longer just responsible for ensuring remote workers have the technology they need to work at home—they must ensure remote work isn’t exacerbating the problem of silos among teams. They are responsible for keeping data both accessible—yet secure—no matter where employees are working from.

4. Embrace automation to increase effectiveness.

When information remains siloed, teams become less effective, despite adopting software that was, ironically, created to increase productivity. When you do keep information in siloes, collaborating across departments becomes more difficult. For example, your marketers might benefit from insights that your sales team has uncovered, or a customer engagement score could encourage your product and engineering department to prioritize certain initiatives. So how do you get important, insightful data from point A to point B?

In recent years, messaging applications (like Slack) have been widely adopted in an attempt to make communication between departments and individuals quick and easy. But are we taking a Band-Aid approach to the bigger problem? When gaps in digital workflows are essentially patched with ad hoc instant messages from people asking for data or support, it actually adds more work, and even stress, to our plates.

I predict that automation will play a crucial role in helping IT implement and integrate multiple SaaS tools in the months and years to come. For example, Airbnb was able to meet aggressive deadlines for its “Trip Experiences” product by automating a repeatable process to increase the capacity and organization of its creative teams. This templated, semi-repeatable process includes web page development, video production and more. Automation ultimately allowed their creative team members to focus on the artistic parts of their jobs rather than the administrative parts.

When information and the right data remains accessible to everyone, from anywhere, your workforce can truly work smarter and not harder. But when data is siloed, and when our applications don’t work together, technology can’t do its job. Organizations are most effective when there’s a balance between adding new tools and ensuring all technology shares data seamlessly with other systems. When we avoid data fragmentation, it becomes possible to realize the true impact technology can have on the productivity and efficiency of our workforce.

 

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