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Enterprise App Sprawl: Key Takeaways for the CIO


The dramatic rise of workplace apps – that are meant to keep employees engaged and productive – is actually frustrating and a burden for today’s digital workplace. While IT teams have long dealt with the issue of outdated software and unnecessary programs clogging the enterprise network , the pandemic and the abrupt shift to remote work points to the fact that an app sprawl is well underway and that needs immediate attention.

App Sprawl is Out of Control

According to a research  conducted by Citrix and OnePoll, while the gains of collaboration apps are immense such as increased their engagement and productivity, employees feel they’ve been given too many tools and not enough efficient ways to execute. And it’s hindering their ability to get things done.

Pointing out the challenge, Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy, Citrix says, “People are working the same or more hours, but they’re accomplishing less because technology is getting in their way.”

In fact the study shows app sprawl is just out of control, with 71% of IT managers saying that these have made work more complex. As Minahan believes that employees are undoubtedly frustrated, “…and to keep them engaged and performing at their best, companies need to eliminate the friction and noise from work and deliver technology that adapts to their work styles rather than forcing them to learn new ways of doing things.”

There’s also a paradox as companies realize that work styles have fundamentally changed and there’s no going back to the old ways. Nearly 90% of respondents tote survey say they want the flexibility to continue to work at home and in the office post pandemic.

“Regardless of their physical location, employees need to be empowered with tools that provide a consistent, secure and reliable experience and allow them to work the way they work best,” Minahan said.

Other studies also point towards the spurt of enterprise app sprawl. according to a survey published by Zluri and Pulse, three-quarters of IT leaders say security is their top concern regarding SaaS sprawl, . Compliance (58%), costs (57%) and shadow IT (57%) follow as the main areas of concern, the survey found.

Another recent report by digital experience management company Aternity also shows that managing and maintaining the growing array of enterprise apps often give CIOs nightmares, especially in the last one and a half years.

Mike Marks, Head of Product Marketing, Aternity states that CIOs need to tackle the collaboration app sprawl smartly and effectively, so as to ensure a positive employee digital experience and manage the growing hybrid workforce.

The study highlighted that living in a data-driven world the ongoing challenge of collaboration app sprawl is a sign of healthy collaboration activity, as the more we collaborate, the more sprawls we create. The report also shows the huge growth in the collaboration apps market that;s evident from the desperation of tech giants to capture the market.

According to Marks, “IT teams are now faced with additional tools to manage and support which can be overwhelming for teams that are already stressed by the additional pressures of supporting a remote workforce. In addition, this collaboration sprawl can reduce the productivity through degraded performance of devices, a lack of training in how to use the various collaboration apps, and simple confusion over which apps to use.

“Collaboration app sprawl is a challenge for IT team. Even if your organization only officially supports one collaboration application, it is extremely likely individuals or teams within your organization are using at least 2-3 applications. It is critical to gain an understanding of which applications are being used in your organization and monitor their performance,” he explains. Marks notes that the first step for CIO/CISOs in tackling the cybersecurity implications of collaboration apps is to understand which apps are being used by your organization.

“It is very likely your organization is using several different applications which can increase your risk exposure drastically. Begin by developing a way to monitor and track collaboration app usage so you can develop a plan for further risk mitigation,” he says.

The other interesting trend Marks notes is that, if 2020 was defined by the shift to remote work, 2021 can be defined by the shift to a hybrid remote workforce. “In such a scenario, IT managers should clearly define flexible work policies, analyze current collaboration app usage and performance, reassess their collaboration app portfolio and eliminate redundant tools and abilities.” He believes, businesses should make collaboration apps part of their mission-critical technology stack and track the impact of IT performance on the remote employee experience.

The Citrix study too believes that as companies organize around new, hybrid work models, they need to rethink the role of technology and how they apply it across their organizations so that employees, rather than being frustrated, are empowered to succeed. As Minahan observes, digital workspaces can solve the app sprawl problem to a large extent.

Digital workspaces, according to Minahan, can not only unify work – as employees working from anywhere – be it their office, home or fight – have consistent and reliable access to all the resources they need to be productive across any work channel, device or location, but is also more secure. Further its intelligence capabilities like machine learning, virtual assistants and simplified workflows personalize, and automate the work experience so employees can work free from noise and perform at their best.

Key Takeaways for CIOs

From the above research studies and given the dependence of collaboration apps for the work-from-everywhere enterprise, here are the key takeaways for the CIOs:

  • Define flexible work policies through internal discussions with key organizational stakeholders. With the policies established, identify the technical capabilities required to make these policies achievable.
  • Analyze the current collaboration app usage and performance across the organization to determine a baseline and identify opportunities for performance, cost, and productivity optimization.
  • Reassess your collaboration app portfolio within the context of your newly defined or updated flexible work policies, ensuring employees will have the tools needed to work effectively and succeed regardless of location while minimizing cost.
  • Eliminate redundant tools and capabilities through rationalization of your collaboration app portfolio as you transition to a hybrid work environment. Closely manage migration projects to ensure no negative impacts on employee experience.
  • Make collaboration apps part of your mission-critical technology stack (e.g. the integration of Salesforce and Slack and SAP and Microsoft Teams) and implement the proper support, maintenance and monitoring to ensure high levels of performance.
  • Using Digital workspaces can not only unify work no matter the device or location, but is also more secure and simplifies work.
  • Track the impact of IT performance on the remote employee experience as the organization begins to shift to a hybrid workforce. So, as enterprise collaboration software continues to boom and usher in new trends such as hybrid workforce, Marks concludes that the time is now to put in a plan in place for managing an enterprise that is working from everywhere.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at [email protected]