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This article was published on June 6, 2017

Single-purpose apps are dead, long live multi-purpose software

Single-purpose apps are dead, long live multi-purpose software
Jon Lee
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Jon Lee

Jon Lee is the CEO and co-founder of ProsperWorks, a modern CRM solution for businesses powered by G Suite. Before co-founding ProsperWorks, Jon Lee is the CEO and co-founder of ProsperWorks, a modern CRM solution for businesses powered by G Suite. Before co-founding ProsperWorks, Jon co-founded and served as CEO of DNA Games, a social gaming technology company acquired by Zynga in 2011. Jon was also the co-founder and CEO of Bazaar Advertising Solutions, an advertising technology company that was sold to Epic Advertising. Earlier in his career, Jon served as Head of Global Business Operations for Yahoo! Search International. He graduated with a BS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley.

We’re living in a world where every single facet of our lives, both personally and professionally, can be managed by an app. From standalone grammar checkers to email hunters to digital project boards, there’s an app for every function imaginable.

This current state of specialization has now fully hit its stride. The ability to offer specific software on-demand at lower costs — the SaaS model — democratized the software industry, allowing various niche providers to enter the field with greater accessibility.

Enterprises are facing the same threat of software oversaturation when it comes to business solutions. Most companies today operate across a variety of platforms in order to oversee essential functions like marketing, sales, accounting and HR. But is this system of hyper-specialization sustainable?

The issues with overspecialization

Overspecialization can limit expertise, restrict macro-level thinking and decrease productivity. That’s because specialized software solves only one problem really well, yet most businesses are dealing with a barrage of problems at any given time.

Not to mention the fact that more problems actually arise once we reach the point of oversaturation. For example, flipping back and forth between specific tabs, apps, devices and programs quickly becomes tedious. But more importantly, it wastes valuable time, requires intensive training and interrupts the user’s workflow, leaving more room for errors or lack of adoption altogether.

Salespeople, for instance, often cite customer relationship management (CRM) systems as a major cause of inefficiency, productivity loss and poor overall employee satisfaction. That’s because most CRM systems require salespeople to manually enter data and jump back and forth between spreadsheets, calendars and email, which means they’re spending the majority of their time updating their CRM rather than actually selling.

So where do we go from here?

Mergers and acquisitions

One way to solve the hyper-specialized software dilemma is to create more expansive software solutions through mergers and acquisitions. Bigger software companies — productivity suites in particular — can broaden their offerings or improve existing products by acquiring younger, more innovative upstarts.

Take Google for example. Google’s efforts to become a big enterprise software player are evident in the volume of their acquisitions over the last few years. Two of their more recent acquisitions include Limes Audio, a Swedish company that will strengthen Google’s video conferencing capabilities, and Qwiklabs, a company that creates tools to help get people up to speed on the G Suite productivity service.

Acquisitions and mergers don’t just benefit tech giants, either. Salesforce was once considered a niche software startup, but through its acquisitions the software company has become one of the biggest names in cloud computing — two notable acquisitions outside of the CRM space include Quip, an upstart cloud productivity platform, and Demandware, a cloud-based e-commerce platform.

Integrations and cross-app communication

Another way to solve the complications of software oversaturation is through better software integrations and cross-app communication. If software companies continue to offer standalone solutions or introduce niche solutions to the market, they should play well with the core productivity software that businesses and consumers rely on already, like email, spreadsheets or word processors.

For example, Google and Intuit announced plans to integrate G Suite and QuickBooks Online last fall. Prior to this collaboration, business managers were wasting valuable time manually entering QuickBooks accounting tasks into their Google Calendar.

According to a survey, more than half of QuickBooks users were already using Google Calendar to book appointments. Vinay Pai, Vice President and Head of the Intuit Developer Group, said in a statement, “By bringing our technologies together, we will create important efficiencies between two solutions customers are already using.”

The future of software

It’s clear we’re nearing the point of software oversaturation — look to the declining rate of mobile app installs for evidence. According to a recent report, half of U.S. smartphone users download zero apps per month. People are looking for less clutter, so we must create more comprehensive software experiences for both individuals and businesses through strategic M&As and seamless integrations.

The software industry is continuously evolving, meaning software providers of the future need to adapt or risk failure. The most successful ones will find a way to offer a necessary service without contributing to software overload — or better yet, design software to live within the apps we’re already using most.

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