Is technology killing productivity? Not if you implement it right!

October 10, 2018
by Lawrie Breen

Technology and change go hand in hand. As we continue on the journey of transforming business, it’s interesting to read the different perspectives that change brings.

I recently read an article that a colleague of mine posted on LinkedIn from the World Economic Forum. The crux of the article: Is technology killing productivity? The case was made for technology not contributing to office productivity but in fact sending it the other way.

In some areas, I can see their point. If you think about how smartphones, combined with social media, attract our attention at all hours of the day, it can be seen as a distraction. There’s certainly been a shift in recent years towards a further blending of our personal and business lives, particularly as more Millennials enter the workforce with a different view on work/life balance.

However, I’d argue that technology is most definitely NOT a productivity killer and is in fact the complete opposite.

Technology is an enabler

It’s a common misconception that we see in many areas of business: Many organisations regard technology as the actual change. As I’ve written about previously, technology itself isn’t the change; it’s an enabler of change in your business. By that I mean it’s the improvements to process, for example, that are the change, technology just enabled them to happen.

Sure, you can have a challenge when selecting the right technology platform to bring into your business, and there are examples of that happening. I’d wager however that the platform is less of a concern than the process or methodology you employ to actually implement it in your business.

How you implement it matters

Implementation is often where your technology program goes wrong. Having seen so many examples, both internally and at our clients, I truly believe that nailing this element is the difference between success and failure.

One of the points raised in the World Economic Forum article was that new technology can slow productivity by requiring staff to learn a new process or way of doing something, which takes time to bed down. I find that point to be a little overstated: Manage your project well, and you’ll avoid the majority of this issue.

A fair amount of the projects we’re involved in relate to a change in workflow or process. It is always designed to streamline and improve the way a business processes information to make it faster, more accurate, and/or provide a better outcome for staff and customers. How you manage the rollout, from planning and training, right through to how you communicate it and keep people informed, will have a tremendous impact on your success. It’s why the professional services element of a project is so important: You need to choose a vendor that has strong capability to not only understand the technology, but also examine how that will transform your business, and plan accordingly.

Benefits far outweigh the challenges

While I understand that technology can be daunting at times, I cannot agree that it has ‘killed productivity’. Both for our clients and for Inland Digital, technology has made us much more efficient at delivering for our clients and partners. It’s driven down cost, improved the working lives of employees, and made growth possible.

Coming back to a point I referenced earlier: I’d even say that social media and technology like the smartphone are, in fact, productivity generators. Think about the way social media has changed how customers interact with us and made it easier to reach an audience with our messaging. Mobility has revolutionised business and made working from anywhere truly possible.

I’ll leave you with a story that was recently told to me: In commenting that younger workers spend large chunks of time on their smartphones, someone said to me “It’s not different to when we were younger: I remember being told ‘Why have you got your head buried in that book, ignoring everyone? The situation is the same, it’s now just a different medium. Would you tell a younger person to ‘get their head out of a book’ these days? That is actually an interesting opinion; yes, Millennials may have a different way of communicating and processing information, but is that a bad thing? Maybe if we look at it in a different light and take the time to investigate it further, there could be a case to examine how transforming business can be better achieved by working differently.

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