All the Business Tools You (Shouldn’t Have)

This article was originally published in the Workin’It blog by Scoro.

Everybody loves business tools. So much so, that we’re willing to have a similar conversation every other day:

TEAM MEMBER 1: (Whispering) Hey … you know when’s the deadline for this project?

TEAM MEMBER 2: It’s … uh … wait… let me check.

TEAM MEMBER 1: So?

TEAM MEMBER 2: Wait, the project app’s still loading…

TEAM MEMBER 1: And what’s still to be done?

TEAM MEMBER 2: Um … wait, I’ll check from our Slack group.

TEAM MEMBER 1: And do we have the tasks pre-approved?

TEAM MEMBER 2: (Raising voice) Gosh! Give me a sec … I’ll check from our workflow management tool. It’s still loading!

TEAM MEMBER 1: Wait… We’ve got a workflow management tool?!

TEAM MEMBER 2: Yeah… And it’s super productive, integrates with Slack.

10 minutes and 4 business tools later…

TEAM MEMBER 2: So … um … I think the deadline’s tomorrow.

TEAM MEMBER 1: You think?

TEAM MEMBER 2: Yeah, it’s March 18 in the project management app and March 24 in Slack.

TEAM MEMBER 1: (Sighs) Oh well … Let’s just ask Johnny.

If this reminded you of a recent conversation with a colleague, you’re like most office workers in today’s world.

According to the latest research by HubSpot (published in February 2017), 82% of employees are losing hours every week due to managing and navigating business apps.

Which should make us wonder: With thousands of technologies developed to help us become more productive at work, are we truly more efficient?

The answer: not necessarily.

THE ELUSIVE PARADOX OF BUSINESS APPS

If the dialogue above made you feel frustrated, know you’re not alone.

For HubSpot’s business app survey respondents, the top frustrating aspects of using SaaS tools were:

  • Monitoring and maintenance of tools
  • Managing passwords and switching between tools
  • Integrating different tools
  • Connecting data across tools

Marketers and salespeople spend a significant amount of time dealing with the complexity created by disparate tools.

The new shiny business app promising to solve a productivity issue comes with a hidden cost: the time wasted on setup and maintenance.

In his interview with Tim Ferriss, Adam Robinson told a story of a dinner with Warren Buffett. He told of a time when Warren Buffett showed his dinner companions his calendar planner for the next 12 months. As Buffet flipped through the pages, every single page was blank. That’s because he values time over all other riches in this world. How much do you value your time?

While companies are still struggling to truly grasp the value of their employees’ time, it is evident that everyone’s time should be treated mindfully.

Disparate business apps, however, take a huge junk out of millions of people’s time in organizations worldwide.

Read more: [INFOGRAPHIC] Where Time Gets Lost at Work

THE HIDDEN COST OF BUSINESS APPS

In addition to monthly or YoY fees, business tools have another cost many of us won’t necessarily notice: a tremendous loss of time.

The problem of time loss is apparent in even the best of organizations.

In their account on time lost at work, Forbes revealed that an employee who works 2,080 hours per year could potentially waste 520 hours per year, were they in the top bracket of time wasters.

But it’s not just social media and emails stealing away our time.

An average Slack user is active 320 minutes every workday. That’s 5.3 hours of potentially getting pinged with requests, leading to distraction and consequently, poor quality of work.

Add to the equation the time spent on logins and waiting on page loads while on quest of finding answers to tens of work-related questions. Every single day.

Business apps have become an indiscernible part of our daily work. So much so that we’ve long lost the hold over the hours spent on logins and page loads.

THE EFFECT OF BUSINESS TOOLS ON YOUR COMPANY

When HubSpot analyzed their customer base of over 20,000 websites, they found that each site had an average of 13 tool integrations enabled. In the most extreme case, one customer had 88 technologies enabled on their site.

The number of marketing and sales tools alone often reaches the high-end range of 6–10 business apps.

Add a corresponding number of collaboration, accounting, and reporting tools, and you’ve got the total of 30+ business apps.

According to the business apps directory Siftery, large companies are using more than one hundred business apps each.

Here’s the number of business tools used by renowned companies:

  • Slack: 112 products
  • Google: 341 products
  • Uber: 152 products
  • Apple: 185 products
  • New York Times: 141 products

(It might be a good time to count all business apps used in your organization.)

As the consumerization of technology continues, many people don’t even consider all the different categories of tools they use on a day-to-day basis.

However, the effect of business apps is apparent across all corporate ladders.

For an average employee, it means additional effort to remember passwords and where they’ve stored the information. In many cases, shuffling between business tools and emails can lead to frustration and disappointment, feeling best avoided both at work and in life.

For a company’s leaderboard, business apps represent a threat of huge (and in most cases, elusive) loss of resources and talent. Not to mention the additional effort to coordinate data, talent, and knowledge across multiple business divisions.

This is not to say that no business app enhances productivity. However, the culmination of tens of software tools reaches a point where their demands start to overweigh benefits.

SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

There’s no way companies could do without business apps. And there’s no reason to search for such a definite conclusion.

Our ultimate goal should be building a simple, supportive set of tools that work together without unnecessary friction. This means combining two trends — across-app integrations and all-in-one software solutions, providing multiple features instead of a single one.

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Look for business tools that are built with scaling organizations and interdisciplinary teams in mind, and replace your current toolset with the one designed to empower your team.

Oh, and try to get the number of business apps you use down from 100+. That’s a start!

AND IF YOU TOO FEEL THE BURDEN OF BUSINESS TOOLS, HEART THIS ARTICLE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE PROBLEM. 🙌