Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Technology advancement and the productivity paradox – 1: the need for a technology inclusion and implementation policy

Posted in business and convergent technologies, HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on May 8, 2012

Everyone knows the exceptions to the rule and we confront them every day at work – meetings where people physically present might as well not be because their attention is somewhere very different – tethered to their handheld and their emails or texting comes to mind as an all too frequent example. Business technology is almost always spoken of in terms of productivity and improvement and that general label is applied to any and every piece of hardware and software that would in any way connect into the office space and/or business activities. That, at least is the usual add-on in marketing why any new technology advance should be included in the workplace.

The “bring your own tech” movement is certainly consistent with this (see Navigating the Bring Your Own Tech Puzzle at HR and Personnel , postings 73 and 75-77), as are an increasing range of ways that standard hardware and software already present can be used to stay busy but not effectively so, at least as far as achieving work goals and priorities are concerned. But more than just that, adding in additional tools and options just to add in newer technology and stay current can increase productivity up to a certain point and then mostly just serve to decrease it for the clutter, and even when every effort is made to use this to increase productivity.

I have written about instances of that general problem a number of times, and turning back to the handheld devise example I began this posting with I cite my earlier posting Joining, Working On and Leading a Committee – 15: committee etiquette from my committee best practices series.

My intention here is to step back from the specific instance of where technology resources compete with business effectiveness and productivity, to look at this set of issues as a whole. And I would begin that by noting two important and interrelated points:

• Information Technology needs to own these issues and hold responsibility for managing and resolving them, as any effective resolution will require effective integration of new technology and new uses of standard technology, into overall systems.
• But Human Resources has to own these issues and hold ownership responsibility over them too, as Information Technology knows the technology side of this but Human Resources knows, or at least should know the work context that it would be deployed and used within, and from a people and personnel perspective. And Human Resources owns the overall work performance evaluation and tracking system in place.

I will add that Finance, and Marketing and Communications, and other departments and services have to be in the loop for any discussions and decisions coming from this too, as technology is used and at least potentially misused and ineffectively used anywhere and everywhere throughout the organization.

• For most businesses and organizations, levels of information and communications technology use will correlate strongly and positively with both opportunity to cut corners and deploy bad usage practices, and for incidence rates for doing so.
• But this is not simply a problem of scale. A single crucially significant instance of technology misuse can carry more impact than a frequently recurring low due diligence risking, minor irritant-to-work-flow and overall productivity problem.

The goal in managing this set of issues and potential pitfalls is to do so proactively, and with flexible, scalable guidelines. Technology is always changing and will continue to do so at a very fast pace. New ways to use and to collaboratively use the technology already in place will continue to advance at least as rapidly if not more so. And the breakdown of barriers between work and personal life will continue to blur the boundaries between personal and business use of technology in place and of technology that can effectively be in place.

• All of this can lead to increased efficiency and productivity.
• It can lead to loss of due diligence and risk remediation control, and to reduced productivity – at least on the tasks that employees are supposed to be focusing on while at work.
• More often, both can happen and seemingly inseparably at times.

I offer this posting as the first in a series on best practices for thinking about and proactively developing for new technology and its uses, so as to reduce risk and improve efficiency, capturing the upside of change while limiting its more negative risk potentials.

I am going to begin a more detailed discussion of a best practices policy for this in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find related postings at HR and Personnel and also at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.

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