Organizations with too many digital tools end up with worse operational outcomes — cataloging your current resources can help you identify gaps and inefficiencies.
It’s not unusual for organizations to piece together various digital solutions in order to support their specific workflow. But is your collection of tools hurting as much as it is helping? It’s time to audit your existing tools — from project management platforms and chat applications to discussion boards and databases — to discover redundancies or gaps. With an up-to-date catalog of your existing array of tools, you may be able to pinpoint the unified solution you need to enable true operational efficiency.
How Teams End Up with Too Many Digital Tools
It’s no surprise that organizations end up using so many digital tools. One cause is that many teams are still using decades-old legacy digital solutions. These tools are so familiar and ingrained in company processes that many teams are reluctant to give them up, despite limited capabilities. These tools may also be difficult to replace — for instance, switching out legacy equipment and systems in manufacturing might simply be too expensive.
Many organizations create workaround solutions to make up for difficulties they face with legacy tools. Field services teams of all types may be curious about how digital technologies can help streamline their workflow, but few start by rehauling the process as a whole. Instead, different departments or teams may experiment with various new tools for specific needs. They end up using a mix of dashboards, email, chat, databases, apps, and other digital solutions, patching together capabilities to try to support the process as a whole.
Why don’t these teams invest in more comprehensive digital transformation? It all comes down to a fear of change. Many organizations settle for “good enough” if they aren’t certain of the ROI of a more unified solution. Companies may also worry that creating a new solution could be too time-consuming, particularly if they lack the in-house capacity to develop the exact tool they need. But particularly for operational teams, the effort required to make a change may be less detrimental than using an assortment of disparate tools.
Why Your Array of Digital Tools Isn’t “Good Enough”
It’s common for organizations to fall behind the curve in digital adoption. But if your team is still using siloed or workaround tools, they are likely operating well below their potential. Attempting to use a set of tools that don’t communicate with each other to manage your critical processes is likely to cause the following issues:
- Inefficiency and Redundancy: Juggling a handful of limited tools simply isn’t efficient. It takes time to manage multiple tools — and what’s more, team members often end up having to migrate data and updates manually between platforms. On top of this, there are often redundancies and overlapping capabilities in the resulting workflow.
- Operational Gaps: When you work with a stack of single purpose tools, it’s likely that there will be operational gaps. Because your various tools aren’t purpose-built to encompass specific processes, you may instead have to adjust your workflow to fit their design.
- Lack of Integration: An effective digital solution requires data integration — not just for convenience, but because data silos and communication gaps lead to slow or poor decision-making. Data from legacy tools and cutting-edge IoT arrays alike must be able to flow seamlessly into your team’s hands to keep operations running smoothly. If you have a half-dozen tools in place, it’s almost inevitable that data will end up siloed and unused.
- Errors: When your process is fragmented, it’s more likely that operational errors will occur. Alerts or deadlines housed in one tool may go overlooked. Chat tools may become a distraction rather than an efficient mode of communication. And process mistakes are more likely if not all relevant information is readily available.
Ultimately, these problems lead to negative operational outcomes. When teams spend their time managing tools, searching for data, and manually filling in the gaps, it becomes more difficult to take informed action. Meanwhile, competitors who have overhauled their systems to adapt and evolve their digital strategy will pull ahead of the pack.
Start by Cataloging your Digital Tools
Organizations must take stock of their current tools. By answering the following questions, you can more easily identify redundancies, gaps, and outdated tech. With this information in hand, you can take the next steps to shape a comprehensive, unified digital solution:
- What tools are the team currently using? Start with a simple list of all the types of digital tools in your stack — from email and text to analytics and management programs.
- Who uses each tool? Examine the digital workflow for as many team members as possible to understand how the process actually unfolds — and which tools are actually utilized.
- What does each tool help the team accomplish? Figure out which tools provide communication channels, critical information, alerts and deadlines, decision-making support, visibility, and other capabilities.
- Which tools are out of date? It’s not uncommon for teams to rely on out-of-date, legacy, or “limited free trial” digital solutions.
- What parts of the process are (and are not) supported by technology? Throughout this audit, you should take note of capabilities that are streamlined and automated as well as any parts of the process that still require manual or redundant effort.
- Where does data live in the system? As you catalog your tools, make sure you understand the flow of data. Examine how data enters the system and moves between tools. Note where data silos occur and when workers must dig to find information.
Once you have cataloged your digital tools using the above questions, you can better ensure that you’re poised to make smart digital investments moving forward. To avoid the typical pitfalls associated with a piecemeal approach, you should consider unifying your capabilities. In many cases, that means building out a workstream collaboration (WSC) solution.
A workstream collaboration tool can be designed to suit your specific organization’s needs and support the various parts of your process. By integrating seamlessly with legacy tools and other data sources, team members can spend less time digging for information between tools and more time focusing on the task at hand. A WSC tool can also replace a disparate set of communication methods by supporting focused discussion channels layered on top of your real workflow. With these capabilities in one centralized location, you can rest assured you’re optimizing your digital resources to help your team take smarter, faster action.