What Is Software Bloat and Is Your Organization Suffering From It?
Today, all companies must rely on software to operate. There’s a software platform for just about every commercial function, from strategic planning to managing fleet maintenance, HR issues, customer service, and data analytics.
Overall, platforms are designed to add value. If you pay $500 a month for a piece of software, it should ideally render more than $500 in monthly value, whether in the form of time savings, cost savings, increased sales, or some other benefit.
Unfortunately, some firms eventually undergo “software bloat”: inefficiencies attributable to the software packages they depend on. If you intend to maximize software ROI, or just want to make sure your organization runs as smoothly and cost-efficiently as possible, this is a potential problem to identify and address.
What Is Software Bloat?
Do you understand the nature of software bloat? There are several definitions for the phenomenon, with some overlap between them.
When we talk about software bloat, we’re referring to two different yet related concepts. First, there’s the tendency for an individual piece of software itself to become “bloated” over time, with an abundance of dubiously valuable new features, slowing performance, and no substantive measurable value added.
Over time, the package can become overburdened and buggy, which naturally makes it harder to justify as an addition to your software suite.
Second, there’s the tendency for an organization to acquire more software programs than it needs. In this case, staff who select and acquire software go overboard, and purchase any package that looks like it might be of use.
Some programs may be valuable, but others will be redundant or unnecessary, and thus add to costs without adding value to the organization.
Another type of software bloat is sometimes referred to as “bloatware.” This refers to superfluous apps that have been pre-installed on devices or bundled with other, more desirable programs.
Though this has much in common with the other definitions of software bloat, this irritant is less often a long-term problem for organizations the way the other two can be.
Signs of Software Bloat
The following are ways to distinguish possible signs of software bloat in your organization.
- Sluggish device performance. If your devices are performing sluggishly, that can be a sign they’re overloaded with programs or that the selection you use demands too much of your computer resources. There are other factors that could create a sluggish device, including malware or outdated hardware.
- But if performance problems appear to be tied to a specific program, it could be because that software has become overloaded with unnecessary features. And if performance problems arise because there are too many competing platforms, that could also be a problem
- User complaints. Are the users in your organization complaining there are too many software platforms to have to wade through, or that certain pieces of software simply aren’t productive anymore? Take these complaints seriously.
- User confusion. You can also identify a software bloat problem if employees are confused about which platform they should be using for particular activities. If multiple platforms share common functions, employees may become less and less clear about which should primarily be used.
- Excessive software spending. Take a look at what you’re spending on software. If you want to remain innovative and competitive, you’ll have to continue to budget for your most critical software platforms of course. But if expenditures have grown beyond sustainable levels, that’s a sign that you should take a closer look at everything you’re using.
- Redundant functionality. One of the hallmarks of software bloat is redundant functionality. If you have multiple platforms that perform much the same thing, you should get rid of one or more of them.
- Unused or rarely used products. Software bloat is also evident if you have products that rarely or never get used. They either no longer serve a function in your organization, or have become so overloaded and unmanageable that users stopped using them.
How to Address Software Bloat
What steps should you take to address software bloat?
- Undergo a thorough audit. Make a thorough accounting of all the software packages you’re paying for, and document the purpose of each.
- Cut the evident waste. If and when you find obvious waste, cut it.
- Calculate ROI. For more complicated scenarios, run the numbers on the software ROI. How much value is this platform delivering compared to what you’ve been paying?
- Scrutinize future software acquisitions carefully. Think critically about each new piece of software you consider adding to your firm’s suite of products.
Software bloat is a problem that can happen to any organization. You can mitigate the problem by exercising caution whenever your company acquires and installs new platforms, but it’s also worth auditing your current holdings on an irregular basis so you can take action if the results suggest that could be warranted.