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    Study: SaaS Applications are a Source of Productivity Loss

    One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications being employed by organizations exploded in the last year. Many business units adopted a range of these applications largely because they were more accessible to employees working from home than on-premises applications.

    The issue now, however, is many of those same organizations are discovering SaaS applications are, in many cases, too much of a good thing. A report based on three separate surveys of 1,000 participants conducted by Qatalog, a provider of a platform for managing workflows, in collaboration with Cornell University’s Ellis Idea Lab, finds more than half of respondents (56%) are finding it difficult to keep track of information across multiple applications.

    The study finds, for example, in a typical working day an individual is wasting 59 minutes trying to find information across tools such as Google Workspace, storage systems such as Dropbox, and messaging channels such as Slack. That adds up to roughly five hours of wasted time every week for each employee.

    Nearly two-thirds of respondents (61%) also report it can be hard to figure out what others are working on, while 44% note siloed digital tools make it hard to know whether work is being duplicated. Almost half of respondents (49%) say they’re concerned that the information they post to applications will get lost in a sea of updates, with more than half (53%) admitting they make updates even when they’re not fully necessary just to cover their bases. 

    Context switching between applications is also an issue for 43% of respondents, with 45% noting that switching back and forth between applications makes them less productive.  Nearly two thirds (62%) also report missing opportunities to collaborate with fellow employees.

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    Over Complicating Workflows

    The irony of this is IT is supposed to make employees more productive, says Qatalog CEO Tariq Rauf. Instead, workflows that need to span multiple applications that are not especially well-integrated are requiring employees to spend more time completing tasks, notes Rauf. Reliance on SaaS applications that each have their own user interface that needs to be learned only complicates matters, adds Rauf. 

    “Other studies have shown there’s been an 800% increase in usage of SaaS applications in the last six years,” says Rauf.

    Unfortunately, there‘s been no corresponding increase in productivity, which is the primary reason organizations invest in IT in the first place. When that fails to happen, it naturally makes it more challenging for IT leaders to convince business leaders to continue to make those investments.

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    Finding Flexibility

    The biggest challenge may be that so many applications are now being acquired by lines of business that are often working at cross purposes from one another. No one wants to go back to the bad old days when IT organizations dictated what applications should be employed. However, somewhere between a centralized dictatorship and the chaos that often prevails today, there is a happy medium that should enable organizations to be more productive than they currently are.

    In fact, as the economy continues to recover organizations are going to find employees voting with their feet in favor of organizations that have found a way to strike a balance between the need for workflow flexibility and structure. After all, no one, no matter how much they are paid, wants to spend the bulk of their time feeling frustrated simply because the applications being employed make them feel like they are a waste of time and effort. 

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    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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