Application overload – the more you buy, the less productive you get

Rear,View,Of,Female,Administrative,Manager,Holding,Telephone,Reading,New

Application overload refers to the concept of inundating your employees with productivity applications for work, resulting in fragmented attention spans. This phenomenon is not new, or limited, to the corporate world. You already see the parallel in how mobile applications vie for our precious time on smartphones every day: Instagram, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, WeChat, Line, and the list just goes on.

What our employees are potentially facing:

  • At least 4 or more core applications to use every day (Email, MS Office, at least 2 communication apps: Zoom/Teams/etc)
  • An additional 3 or more job specific applications to use (Salesforce, Tableau, SaS, Zendesk, Git, and other applications)
  • Time wastage everyday switching between applications (and thus, work context), losing their concentration and train-of-thought
  • The need to deal with applications for their own work, but also applications that their colleagues use when collaborating

Consolidating and Streamlining

Throughout the late 2010s, as the rise of application overload became more evident, there have been many solutions proposed to counteract the negative effects of the application flood. Many thought leaders advocated intra-organization consolidation and streamlining. The process through which organizations assess and cut back on applications with overlapping functionality, applying core applications uniformly across the organization and integrating the remaining applications where possible. These measures have enjoyed some level of success, but in reality, patching 10 applications together with 1 or 2 more aggregating applications does not simplify the problem – employees continue looking at 10 applications, dividing their attention within the container space of an 11th and 12th applications.

Examining where work gets done

To combat this productivity leech, organizations must take stock of the real essentials and separate them out from the fluff. Kind of akin to a retrenchment exercise, but for applications. For a large majority of organizations today, it is fair to assume that the primary centres of most work are Email, MS Office and one job-specific application.

Less is really more

We have to then examine how the knowledge worker of today functions : say it takes at least 15 minutes for the brain to switch context, 1 hour of concentrated thought to research, process and formulate ideas, 1 hour to execute the writing/calculations/slides. We are looking at 2 hours or more to properly execute a task within an application and assuming an 8 hour work day, it only makes sense for the employees to be focusing on a maximum of 3 to 4 applications a day to “get things done”.

With that in mind, can we really afford to have the average knowledge worker getting distracted by 6 or 7 applications a day? The solution, then, is clearly to reduce the amount of attention grabbing distractions from our employees.

“But some of these application have really good productivity features!”

True, and we could not agree more. We are not advocating using less applications per se. Instead, examine your applications judiciously and be extremely selective. A good application does not need to be one that calls for your attention every 5 minutes. In fact, in the very spirit of computers and automation, the ideal application has always been one that did work for your organization in the background – silently, reliably and never requiring human attention until absolutely necessary.


ScoutAsia is an example of an application that holds the ideal of “less is more”. As a data monitoring solution (that has been applied to news, data registries, email, KM archives, etc), is sets itself up to be a hands-free, fire-and-forget monitoring assistant. Off-the-shelf, it monitors more than 40 sources of news, 24/7, watching out for any topic or target of your interest. Customise it, and it can monitor your internal knowledge repositories, emails, websites and so much more.

ScoutAsia does not require your constant attention. You set the targets and it only gets your attention when it absolutely has to – your target has been found. The icing on the top? It does not even require you to touch the application when a target it found: simply integrate the alert to your biggest workhorse application (email, Tableau, Salesforce, you name it) and the outputs go straight to where your employees are already looking at. No distractions.

And that is exactly how we envisage your user experience to be when using productivity apps, having more time on your employees’ hands for, well, work.

For further details, please feel free to contact us.

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