It was the best of times—it was the worst of times. It was the new generation of app sprawl.
IT teams have long dealt with the issue of outdated software and unnecessary programs clogging the enterprise network. But the accessibility—and affordability—of as-a-Service (aaS) apps has presented both a gift and a burden for today’s digital workplace. On one hand, a huge array of easy-to-use and manage services have popped up to help companies work more efficiently. On the other hand, those programs are so easy to download and purchase that many companies are finding themselves lost in a sea of unnecessary programming. The problem is further compounded by bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, which continue to gain popularity. Maintaining these applications can cost enterprises millions and potentially expose them to cybersecurity risks—without providing any substantial value.
So, what’s to be done? As I’ve said before, I’m a huge advocate of aaS in digital transformation, as it allows for agility and scalability that onsite, legacy programs simply do not offer. But I’m also a fan of being smart with our technology. Just like data is not useful unless it’s clean and accurate, aaS apps can slow your company down—literally—if they are not properly managed. Here’s what CIOs and IT departments need to do to rein in the app explosion.
One report by Flexera Software showed 64 percent of respondents have more desktop apps than they need. That’s a sign it’s time to take inventory. Instead of relying on your teams to tell you which programs they’re willing to remove, make the matter an enterprise-wide study. Start by noting all apps and programs present on every device on your network. But don’t stop there. Organize those apps by category or purpose to try to determine redundancies. This process can reduce items by a factor of 10. Can you imagine how much faster your network will run when you remove 90 percent of the junk clogging its pathways?
Involve department owners in the clean-up process. Find out who is using the application (if anyone) and why. It’s possible this could become a political process. One department may prefer one app for a certain service, while another department is loyal to a different one. Work with all relevant constituents to determine which is a best fit for the company as a whole—and be prepared to use diplomacy and leadership in those discussions. They won’t always be easy.
When deciding between one app or another, be sure to consider your overall network and the operating systems you’re using now and in the future. It makes no sense to insist on using an app that most devices are not equipped to utilize. Yes, sometimes this means having hard discussions about off-the-shelf vs. best-in-suite applications. Communicate the reasons it makes sense to use universally compatible and accessible software, and central repositories for data storage. And when using best-in-class programs, make sure there is a true “best reason” to make that choice.
Train and Educate
Employees will not use apps they are not comfortable with. As such, be sure to continually educate your employees on the apps that are replacing those being switched out or removed. Also, be aware that some employees might decide to go rogue and re-download their preferred programs. It’s human nature. Communicating the purpose behind the change should help your cause.
Keep It Going
Cleaning up app sprawl is not a one-time thing. Once you clean up your network, put policies in place to keep it clean, whether it be an approval process or administrator protections. While you never want your tech policies to create a bottleneck for employees who truly need certain services, you also need to be careful in keeping your system safe and un-clogged.
In the future, there will likely be an app to clean up app sprawl—but for now, it’s in the hands of our tech leadership. Be a true partner in the process. Teams will be more likely to come to you for software and aaS approvals when they know you understand their needs and want to find them the best, most efficient solutions.
Additional Resources on This Topic:
Getting a Hold on App Sprawl
The App Generation: Driving Change in the Future of Work
Digital Transformation and the Everyday Employee Experience