Let's not waste time. You don't want to read an introduction. You just want to cut to the chase. So here's the list of the 10 most popular business applications of 2018.

Runners up (in order): DocuSign, Zendesk, Dropbox, ADP, ServiceNow.

While we're at it, here's a list of the 10 fastest-growing business apps of 2018.

Where did this data come from? It was compiled by a company called Okta, an independent provider of identity management and access tools -- like multifactor- authentication security -- for the enterprise. Okta was able to compile this data from the thousands of customers, applications, and infrastructure integrations, and the millions of daily authentications and verifications from countries around the world, that they help secure. They crunched the numbers and put all this data into a recently published report called Businesses@Work.

"Our customers span every major industry and vary in size, from small businesses to enterprises with hundreds of thousands of employees or millions of customers," the report promises. "This data is representative of Okta's customers, the applications we connect to, and the ways in which users access these applications through our service."

It's a big, worldwide sample that seems pretty legit. So what are the major takeaways for your business?

I'm not so sure about Amazon Web Services. Don't get me wrong, I don't dispute that AWS is the leading cloud platform provider in the world and (currently) dominates its competitors like Microsoft Azure and Google. But isn't it just a platform for hosting applications and not an actual business application like the others? 

Microsoft still rules the roost. Although competitors like G Suite have grown faster than Office in recent years, I'm predicting that this trend will slow and that Microsoft will expand its dominance (my company is a Microsoft partner). If you're an Office customer, then you should consider an investment in training and consulting, because I bet you're using only a small percentage of the features available.

Collaboration is key. When you look at the most popular list, you'll discover that more than half of the applications focus on collaboration. Whether it's CRM (Salesforce) or communication (Zoom), they all provide functionality for sharing notes, activities, chats, and other data across companies and teams. If your company doesn't have a good collaboration application, you're going to fall behind those that do.

Up-and-comers can give your business the edge. Have you even heard of KnowBe4 (it's a platform that measures the security awareness of your employees), LastPass (a password manager), or Proofpoint (a provider of security tools)? Don't worry, I write about this stuff and I have to admit I haven't. In fact, of the top 10 fastest-growing applications, I readily recognize only three. Some of these applications are security-related, which does give me a little pause, because Okta is a security company. Is that just a coincidence? Regardless, it's clear that tens of thousands of companies are using these applications and it's those organizations that truly have their eye on the future. For your company -- and mine -- to grow and survive, we should be doing the same.

Where's accounting? Doesn't every business have an accounting system? Where is Quickbooks? Sage? Netsuite? How come there aren't more accounting applications on these lists? If I were to guess, I'd say it's because no one accounting software provider dominates the worldwide market, and there are so many options available for companies in various industries that the market is too fragmented for a clear leader to appear. 

The most important takeaway is this: 2019 should be a pretty good year economically. That should motivate us all to make some serious investments in at least some of these technologies to better position our companies for the future.

Published on: Feb 21, 2019