4 Reasons You Should Inventory Your Team’s Apps Today

4 Reasons You Should Inventory Your Team’s Apps Today

This post is a collaboration with Oliver Nono, Director, Enterprise Customer Success at Zendesk, and a recent CM Makeover Show guest. You can see Oliver’s show here.

How does your team really get results?

One of the key responsibilities of a CS Ops team is monitoring and assessing team performance. This can include periodically taking an inventory of the tools a team is using. Recent CS Makeover Show guest, Oliver Nono, Director of Enterprise Customer Success at Zendesk, learned this first hand when he was relaunching Gainsight.

“…over 35 different apps”

Oliver partnered with Principal Program Manager Molly Jones to understand how the team worked. The goal was to help the team get better results with less effort. They interviewed team members on how they managed their book of business. The results were surprising. They discovered the team was using over 35 apps, were sometimes duplicating efforts, and sometimes creating non-scalable ways of working. While relaunching Gainsight, they were able to provide a better, more efficient way of working and reduce the number of tools the team had to use.

If you have a capable team, they’ll find ways to get a job done but it may not always be in a scalable way. Here are three reasons you should perform an app and tools inventory ASAP:

  1. Identify security gaps
  2. Identify team development opportunities
  3. Identify productivity enhancements
Let’s quickly define “tool” so we know what to look for.

A tool is any application or document that enables work to be done so a “tool” for the inventory can be an app or it could be a spreadsheet or template that enables someone to perform a specific task repeatedly. “Apps” includes the applications installed on your computer, apps installed on mobile devices, websites, and browser extensions.

#1. The first reason to perform an assessment is to figure out if your team is being secure and compliant. More than ever before it is extremely easy for a team member with the best intentions to create a security breach. For example, it’s easy for a teammate to go online and find a new tool by a new company that they know nothing about, and start entering your customer or company data.

Team members who haven’t been properly trained and who have less experience working in a secure culture may not even realize that they’re creating a security risk. Have you heard a teammate confess, “Oh, I’m just using <insert favorite note app> because it’s easy for me”? Is that app approved?

#2. The second reason you want to do an inventory is to find out if there are professional development opportunities for your team. If you’ve been working with browser-based apps for years like we have, it’s easy to forget that a CRM can be intimidating, or that “wiki” is a four-letter word to the inexperienced. Finding how your team is doing their work may uncover training or development opportunities you can provide so the team can use the approved toolset effectively.

#3. The third reason to perform an inventory is to understand how your team is getting results to see if you can help them be more productive, more easily. You may discover that they aren’t using the toolset you assembled because it doesn’t work as you thought, it has significant feature gaps, or they don’t know the app or tool is available for their use.

Finally, I think there is another, selfish reason that as a manager you want to periodically assess how your team is working–getting a glimpse of your team’s culture. As a manager, you may find this process very informative. Team members can get quite frustrated if they can’t work efficiently. It’s surprising how much inefficiency a team member who really wants to be effective will go through to be a “team” player. They don’t know that you are probably oblivious to their suffering and don’t want to be the squeaky wheel. Does your team see itself as “tough” because of unnecessary obstacles it has to overcome? <shudder>

How to take inventory

So how do you perform a tool inventory on top of all the other things you have to do today? Follow these steps and you can be done this week.

  1. Inform the team you’re taking inventory and why
  2. Allow them to help build the inventory
  3. Interview members of your team about the tools they use today
  4. Review the final inventory with the team

Inform the team you’re taking inventory and why

In an email or team meeting, let the team know you want to perform a quick app assessment. Include an explanation of why you want to do this, how you intend to do it, and when you’ll start and finish. You can even share this post to help educate them on what a tool or app is.

Allow them to help complete the inventory

Make a copy of the shared tool we’re providing and make it available via Google Sheets or some other collaboration platform and invite them to contribute. Schedule 5 minutes in your team meeting for a quick group editing session. Once they get started, they may find they’ll want to finish.

Interview members of your team

Either as part of your 1-on-1 or in a dedicated session, ask a team member to walk you through a typical workday by focusing on the tools they use. You can also ask them to walk you through a specific process, like onboarding, step-by-step to uncover tools or apps they rely on. Sometimes using a specific tool is so ingrained in a habit that someone may not even realize it’s a vital part of their work life. (How many screenshots do you have on your desktop? Why?)

Review the final inventory with them

Do a final review in real-time with the team and ask for comments. Are they surprised by how many tools they are using? Are there obvious insights like something is working well, or not?


Oliver was able to reduce the number of tools his teams were using and have an intentional, scalable strategy that let him roll out a systematic way for CSMs to engage enterprise customers globally. It’s been a long journey with profound results, but a good first step for such an epic journey is taking an inventory of where you are today.

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