The average organization has 379 third-party applications – mostly internal tools for managing various types of data.
From marketing and sales, to HR, procurement, finance and more, departments across the modern enterprise rely on a bevy of complex proprietary and off-the-shelf tools for day-to-day operations.
These tools are intended to streamline processes and workflows, and enhance efficiency.
However, several issues can silently undermine the effectiveness of these tools, leading to decreased project efficiency – exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to accomplish!
Organizations may spend significant budgets on tools that don’t talk to each other or add value, and fail to meet business needs.
How does this happen? Let’s examine 4 silent killers of project efficiency in poorly designed internal tools.
1) Lack of User-Centered Design
Internal tools are often developed with the best of intentions – but if they aren't designed with the end-user in mind, they can become cumbersome or difficult to use.
This can lead to decreased user adoption, errors and inefficiencies. The most efficient tool is one that intuitively meets the needs of its users.
The concept of User-Centered Design (UCD) revolves around optimizing a tool or a product around how users can, want or need to use it, rather than forcing users to change their behavior to accommodate the tool.
Without conducting in-depth user research, tool developers might make assumptions about user needs and behaviors that don't align with reality. This mismatch can lead to features that are rarely or never used, or essential functions being buried deep within menus and interfaces.
For example, an interface that fails to follow common design patterns or align with user expectations can be hard to navigate, leading to errors or low adoption.
A tool that doesn't allow users to customize workflows can also be too restrictive.
User-centric design ensures that while the back-end logic and functionality of a tool are technically robust, the front-end experience aligns seamlessly with the user's expectations and needs.
2) Inadequate Documentation and Training
Even the best internal tools are useless if users don't know how to use them properly.
Incomplete or out-of-date documentation, inadequate training and lack of support can inhibit users from leveraging the full potential of the tool.
All tools require thorough documentation that covers all features, functions and scenarios.
Good documentation provides real-world use cases and examples that demonstrate how the tool should be used, along with tips and shortcuts to make it easier.
Without real-world examples, users can struggle to contextualize the tool’s capabilities or understand the practical applications of certain features.
If your documentation is erroneous or outdated, it can mislead users and cause them to waste time. They may also become frustrated and abandon the tool altogether.
Documentation should be well-organized, allowing users to easily find the information they need. And, while some users need high-level overviews, others, especially technical users or administrators, need in-depth details.
Training and support are also critical. Effective training often combines theory with hands-on practice, and mechanisms for participants to ask questions, clarify doubts and provide feedback, such as a user community.
Apart from live sessions, users benefit from resources like video tutorials, Q&A forums and cheat sheets. A diverse set of resources helps users receive the support they need according to their preferences and learning styles.
3) Tool Overload
While having specialized tools for specific tasks can be beneficial, there's a point of diminishing returns.
Constantly having to switch between different tools or platforms can be time-consuming and mentally draining for employees, and remembering multiple logins, interfaces and workflows can be exhausting.
So-called "context switching" has been shown to dramatically reduce productivity, because employees spend more time navigating between tools than focusing on core tasks.
Not only does having too many tools impact productivity, it costs a lot of money.
Each tool typically comes with associated costs – licensing, training and maintenance costs – inflating operational overhead, especially if there’s redundancy. Data exists in silos, making it difficult to aggregate and analyze for useful insights, which slows down decision-making.
Plus, not all tools integrate with each other – which leads us to our next silent killer …
4) Lack of Integration
When internal tools aren’t integrated well with other mission-critical systems, they can cause a lot of problems.
For starters, data exists in silos, which makes it inaccessible for other systems, requiring time-consuming manual data transfers.
Not only is this inefficient and error-prone, it hinders effective collaboration and makes it difficult to gain actionable insights.
Plus, it’s costly. Manual data transfers and redundant data entry processes increase the cost of labor and divert staff from other more important work.
IT teams might have to spend significant time managing, maintaining and troubleshooting non-integrated systems, as well.
As an organization grows, a lack of integrated systems can lead to scalability issues and make it harder to adapt without a major overhaul.
To combat these silent killers, many organizations are turning to tools like Directus, which enables them to build purpose-built, data-driven internal tools and apps quickly and cost-effectively.
Boost Project Efficiency with Directus
Directus is a no-code platform that reduces the time it takes to build and deploy purpose-built, data-driven internal tools and apps, and eliminates the need to manage multiple off-the-shelf tools that aren’t tailored to your needs.
Directus apps seamlessly connect to all data sources via REST and GraphQL APIs, eliminating integration headaches.
To top it off, Directus offers built-in security, reliability, authentication and granular permissions to reduce risk and keep your data safe.