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App Sprawl: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The proliferation of cloud services, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things in the workplace, together with the IT consumerization evolution, have a created a “perfect storm” scenario in which enterprises:

  • Have access to technology that lets employees quickly implement applications to get a job done with just an email address and a few clicks (and without the involvement of IT).
  • Have limited to no visibility or control of the applications environment because of said “quick implementation and lack of IT involvement”.

App sprawl is certainly not a new problem for IT, but now the focus is on mobile applications and how they impact security, efficiency, productivity, and expenses. This great technological power, however, often comes with complicated choices and challenges. Businesses need to strike the balance between the good, bad, and the ugly. This means maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks associated with app sprawl.

Bring your Own Cloud (BYOC), Bring Your Own App (BYOA) and Bring Your Own Anything are becoming the new normal and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies have essentially paved the way for these new complex models. And, in this ever-growing mobile environment, employees are now bringing into the workplace their own laptops, smartphones, tablets, and wearables—virtually anything with connectivity. Mobile users enjoy a wide range of apps but are often unaware about the security and quality in terms of how these apps might contribute to or hinder work productivity. Unconcerned or unaware of the mere concept of app sprawl, these employees seek out apps that help them organize their schedules, track analytics or manage their projects.

Beyond this, nearly two-thirds of mobile data is consumed by personal or social media applications (those not used for business purposes). App sprawl leads to inefficiency as time is not only wasted on many non-work-related applications but on the many apps that do, in fact, contribute to productivity may result in more lost productivity from “app overlap.” This refers to situations where employees are using different applications to achieve the same goals. App overlap can lead to increased costs as employees begin signing up for new apps and expensing the costs to the enterprise. The enterprise and the employee both have no idea what applications are already being used by other employees, the costs and risks associated with these applications, which apps are productive, and where there are opportunities to streamline apps and related processes.

Containing the Sprawl  

Benefiting from the good and avoiding the bad can be challenging for many businesses. We don’t want to take away the agility that these applications offer, but turning a blind eye to app impact is simply not an option. The key to finding “rogue” apps and reigning in control of app sprawl is simple: discovery and visibility.  Containing app sprawl starts with learning what apps are out there in the first place. However, obtaining visibility can be difficult for an enterprise to achieve. Luckily, third party software can discover all applications being used by employees. From here, you start to gain visibility into expenses and security concerns, and only then can the process of tackling app sprawl truly begin.