Subscription-based software (or SaaS) has made tech tools more affordable and accessible than ever. For a monthly subscription fee, companies can get instant access to virtually any software application at a much lower cost than traditional licensing fees.
Unfortunately, that's also made it much easier for teams to end up with five, ten, or more different systems to manage their workflows. And, like an all-you-can-eat buffet, an abundance of software can be too much of a good thing. Having too many software tools can leave your tech stack bloated and your employees exhausted.
There are many reasons to reduce the number of tools your team uses — or to purchase fewer tools in the first place — but here are five of the most common ones:
1. Save money
One obvious disadvantage of having too many software tools is the amount of money you’ll spend. A recent survey by Deloitte found that companies spend on average 3.28% of their revenue on IT.
A single software subscription may cost only a few hundred dollars a month. However, if you’re paying for a handful of different subscriptions, that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars every year!
Think of it this way: If you owned one vehicle for commuting to work, another to drive your kids to school, and yet another to tow your camper, you’d have three car payments every month. Or, you could reduce your expenses by buying one vehicle that can do all three.
Similarly, most companies can save a significant amount of money by consolidating their software tools.
2. Break down data silos
Siloed data is a less obvious but still pervasive problem with using too many software tools. Instead of having access to all the data in a single centralized location, data is isolated in each individual system. This creates “silos” where employees in one group or department can’t easily share information with employees in another. Communication is difficult, people end up duplicating work, and collaboration suffers.
If data silos are a problem for your organization, it may be the case that your data is spread out across too many different systems. Using fewer software tools can help you break down silos so your entire team can work together to achieve a common goal.
3. Spend less time on implementation & training
A typical software implementation can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Multiply that by three, four, or five different systems, and the time really adds up!
Most employees are already swamped with their day-to-day work, so ideally you’ll want to keep the number of new software implementations to a minimum. (Here are some other ways to minimize the IT impact of implementations.)
Once your new system is up and running, you’ll have to spend time training each employee to use it. All software comes with a learning curve, and trying to keep up with too many different systems is a chore. Having too many tools also makes onboarding new employees more complicated. Each additional tool adds to the time it will take to get new hires up to speed.
4. Work faster and more efficiently
No matter what you need to do — send an email, schedule a meeting, communicate with customers, manage tasks — there’s a software tool that will help you get it done faster. However, there comes a point where the disadvantages of using too many tools outweigh the benefits of each individual system.
Managing login information alone is a massive time suck. Research shows that people spend on average 12 days of their life trying to remember and reset passwords! Globally, that adds up to 16.3 billion wasted hours every year. Fewer tools means fewer usernames and passwords to remember.
And then there’s the time we spend switching between multiple tools to perform a single task. One study found that users only spend 2 minutes on a digital tool before switching to something else. Not only does this slow you down, it interrupts your focus and makes it easier to get distracted. A simplified workflow with fewer tools to jump between saves time and keeps you on track.
5. Improve visibility
When your information is spread out across various systems, you can’t get the full picture of your business performance. Reporting is difficult because you have to compile all the data from different systems into a standard format. This can take days or weeks, so by the time the report is finished, the information is already out of date.
Sometimes, you might even notice discrepancies between the data in different tools. If the numbers don’t match exactly, it’s difficult to get a true reading on your company’s performance. At best, this is confusing for your analytics efforts. At worst, you risk making a bad business decision.
Fewer, better software tools
When your team has to use and manage too many software systems, it wastes money, bogs your team down, and hurts your analytics efforts.
Of course, prevention is the best medicine. To avoid ending up with too many tools, there are a few things you should think about before purchasing a software system.
First, is there a tool in your existing tech stack that offers the same (or similar) functionality? If so, you might be able to upgrade your subscription rather than purchasing a separate system. Second, consider looking for a comprehensive system that can meet all of your needs rather than several different tools that only solve a single problem.
Worried that a comprehensive system will break the bank? Generally, it’s a lot cheaper to pay for one subscription than multiple smaller ones. That’s because a lot of the costs involved with purchasing software — implementation fees, data migration, training, and so on — are incurred up front. Be sure to discuss this strategy with your potential software vendor.
Next, learn about the difference between unified platforms and single-point solutions.