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App-mania is showing no signs of slowing down in the workplace but its proliferation could adversely impact businesses and other organizations if left unchecked.

The relative ease of building apps, coupled with an increasingly growing acceptance among employees to use them for business-related purposes, have led to the current app explosion in the workplace. Recent surveys on app usage have found that more and more companies are, if they haven’t already, encountering app overload. One piece of research, commissioned by Harmon.ie that surveyed more than 800 business professionals, pointed out the severity of the problem.

For example:

  • The average business professional uses 9.4 apps in the workplace, while IT workers used 10.4 apps on average.
  • Half of the survey respondents spend a lot of their work day on checking email.
  • Nearly 50 percent of the respondents use apps, such as Dropbox and WhatsApp, which were not approved by the IT department.
  • As an indication of how an excessive number of work apps can harm worker productivity, 40 percent of the respondents said it took more than five minutes to search for a draft of a project, and 14 percent said it took a lot more time to find the document.

The meteoric rise of mobile technology has single-handily created much of the overabundance of apps worldwide, and from the look of things, it’s just the beginning. According to one forecast, both the Apple app store and Google Play, both offering around two million apps, are expected to sharply increase the number of mobile apps in the years ahead. Industry statistics have predicted that the app economy will mushroom from $1.3 trillion in 2016 to $6.3 trillion in five years.

As apps become easier and quicker to produce, more workers are using them to store important business information, which will undoubtedly create big problems for companies with little or no governance policies on management of app data.

With apps becoming ubiquitous in the workplace, businesses are putting themselves at great risk if they don’t have policies and procedures to control the data deluge. The problem with unapproved apps will result in important data being stored in systems that are vulnerable to hacking and other security threats.

Additionally, company information stored in unapproved apps greatly increases the likelihood of bad business decisions being made on inaccurate or outdated information. For instance, employees putting critical information, such as account or trade data, in mobile phone apps won’t be available to those who require this information to help them in making decisions on business-related matters.

Key business departments, such as the compliance, legal and human resources areas, need to know at all times where this information resides and if it can be easily accessed. The absence of strict governance on data usage within an organization will not only create a major headache for these departments but highly regulated companies, such as those in the financial services and health-care sectors, can face huge fines and other penalties if controls are not placed on apps used by workers.

How can companies minimize problems associated with the app glut? One solution is that businesses can create and enforce rules that determine what apps can or cannot be used in the workplace. Furthermore, management also needs to evaluate what apps are being used by workers, determine which apps are fulfilling functions that are not currently available with company-approved solutions, and then fill in the gaps.

It’s vital that businesses undertake appropriate governance and compliance practices to protect themselves from the rapidly growing number of apps being used in today’s increasingly digital workplace. Companies that adopt smart ways to institute these controls on employee data usage will most likely minimize the threat of an apps onslaught.

Adam Storch is the Vice President of Business Solutions at Parsippany, NJ-based Micro Strategies.