Getting a Hold on App Sprawl

By: Daniel Newman| - Leave a comment

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We are in an unprecedented era of growth and transformation. Mobile and cloud technology have given enterprises endless new opportunities to become even more efficient using software as a service (SaaS) apps and programs that seem to multiply by the day. In fact, finding new and better ways to sort, process, and manage our workflow has become almost an addiction for many companies. Combined with old and outdated legacy systems—not to mention an influx of BYOD devices—it’s led to what has come to be known as “app sprawl”—a gnarly web of unused, sometimes even unrecognizable programs that continues to be supported by your network and IT department. In fact, many companies do not even realize how many unused programs they are continuing to patch, update, and maintain, all on the company’s dollar.

We’ve all experienced “app sprawl” on our smart phones—waking up to find our storage completely maxed out with a range of scanners, photo apps, games, and services we may or may not even remember downloading. Just as we need to go through and edit our app inventory, businesses also need to go through the process of weeding their app garden—removing those that are no longer used or needed, or are redundant wherever possible. If not, they risk spending millions in storage space, wasted IT hours, and innumerous security risks from out-of-date services.

Just like cleaning out a packed garage—or cleaning up our growing data swamps—cleaning up your app sprawl can be an overwhelming, sometimes even daunting, task. The following are a few tips to minimize the stress of streamlining your SaaS inventory and saving time and money in the process.

Take Inventory
The only way to get a clear idea of how many apps and programs are flooding your system is to perform a full-scale inventory. Track absolutely everything you’re storing, from mobile to desktop to the cloud, and all the legacy systems in between. You’ll likely be surprised by what you find.

Categorize the Inventory
Categorize the list by app or program type to spot redundancies in services. Some may simply be different editions or versions of the same program that were never cleaned out or culled on previous updates. Others will be “best of breed” variations of the same type of software that may have been tried and rejected over the years.

Find the Owner
Depending on app category, determine who owns it, and work with them to determine which version of the app or program should remain in place. From an IT perspective, focus on compatibility over fragmentation whenever possible. Discuss the owner’s true needs and whether a best of breed solution is critical, or if an in-suite program can do the job. Every program you choose to keep should be critical to your business’ overall goals.

Start Weeding
Once you’ve decided which apps and programs to keep, begin the process of removing, retiring, and updating your system, always keeping compatibility in mind. Depending on what you find, it might be time to update legacy systems to ensure a more efficient experience moving forward. Whatever the case, create a solid new inventory of what you’ve got to make the best, most informed decisions on new apps and programs moving forward.

Determine a Process
Once you’ve got your sprawl under control, you’ll need to establish a process to ensure it won’t continue to get out of hand in the future. Make your app and program inventory available so all teams are aware of what services are already available on the network or cloud. Especially in the case of BYOD, make sure there are strict guidelines regarding the appropriateness of bringing new apps and trials on the system, explaining the potentially catastrophic results if guidelines aren’t followed.

There has never been a more exciting time to run a business. So many tools are easily and affordably available to help you run your company more efficiently. Still, it’s important to keep a level head as you try and adopt new downloads and SaaS programs. Your app inventory can quickly become a sprawl if it isn’t properly managed.

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About The Author

Daniel Newman

Founder and President, Broadsuite, Inc.

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the co-founder of V3B [Broadsuite], a marketing firm specializing in the digital space, helping companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.

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