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Application Hopping Causes 50% Lower Productivity

We think that constant switching between office applications really represents one form of forced multitasking, and the cost is equal: 50% lower productivity. Here’s our proof.

In a couple of articles we have discussed the perils of application hopping (or context switching) in connection with the downsides of multitasking. But what is the relationship between them? According to many sources, multitasking causes around 50% drop in productivity, since it requires constant switching between different skill sets and changing of working memory content. Does application hopping cause similar strain? Let us look for an answer through a practical example.

CRM working like a dream…

We have a user, working out of the office on an account in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application. His or her purpose is simply to update data in its records and in an offer document, then send the latter to a customer. The document is stored in a separate repository on a company drive, which is a usual arrangement.

So what the user simply needs to do is:

  1. Update the account information in the CRM
  2. Update the offer document
  3. Send off the offer document.

…Or rather not?

But just wait – it all can be much more complicated! Let us go through all steps the user may have to take, one by one:

  1. Logs into the CRM.
    • Clicks open the account
    • Updates the appropriate record(s).
  2. Opens a VPN connection in order to access the offer document
    • Keys in the VPN credentials.
  3. Opens the cloud repository
    • Keys in the cloud repository credentials
    • Searches and finds the offer document.
  4. Clicks open the offer document
    • Finds the part to be edited in the document.
    • Edits the document using the document application’s features.
    • Saves the document.
  5. Switches to the cloud repository
    • Copies the address of the document to build a link to it.
  6. Switches back to the CRM
    • Pastes a link to the document on the account page.
  7. Opens the e-mail application
    • Keys in the e-mail credentials
    • Creates a new message
    • Writes the message text
    • Adds the offer as an attachment to the e-mail message
    • Sends off the message.


We had the user change the service context, what – some six times after entering the CRM.

Now, we discussed in an earlier article that just the simple task of writing down five names takes a person to the multitasking mode and drops productivity to half. Why wouldn’t switching between five office applications do the same?

As for cures, what about integration?

With so many unnecessary steps in the procedure – clicking open applications, keying in the credentials for them – the question of there being an extra strain on the brain caused by multitasking is quite irrelevant, actually. Far too much time is wasted by the user, anyway.

So what are the implications of all this to our everyday work with our business applications?

We are continuously looking for ways to increase our efficiency. And there are many things we can try:

  • invest in faster hardware and/or platforms to make computing quick and smooth
  • adopt the most intuitive applications so that effort spent in operating them is minimal
  • acquire and deploy platforms with extensive functionality, so we can minimize need for content switching
  • get our applications and services integrated better
  • organize better our file storages and storing practices
  • automate at least the simplest cut/paste/copy tasks.
  • arrange our working premises and practices, so that they allow the staff to concentrate on their core tasks, with fewer interruptions…
  • …And so forth.

But hey, what if we started by simply ensuring a seamless user experience for our key platforms, those we want to use and like the best? What if we eliminated the need for context switching between them?

After all, that might allow us to save a lot of time and effort, maybe by 50%, maybe even more when performing certain tasks.

For that can be done!

By | March 8th, 2016|

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