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How to spot tech that is harming your productivity in 2019


In the flurry of creating a business case for the latest and greatest tech, it’s easy to get swept along by the promise of a paradise where all your current problems are solved, and everything works in wonderful harmony.

Anyone that’s been through a tech implementation will know that there are usually delays and additional costs that eat into the benefits. Yet, there can be other changes that mean your productivity is being harmed rather than helped by your new kit.

The problem that’s easiest to spot is when implementation just doesn’t go smoothly. If you are having to do extra follow up training that wasn’t planned, then you’ve lost hours from the value adding work your teams do. And if it happens a lot – it can be really hard to understand the impact of tech change on your teams and how they work.

Some tech harms productivity

One of our clients put it well when they said, that they now understood that rather than doing a tech implementation they were actually doing a culture change that was enabled by technology – and once you realise that you put a whole load more effort into change management.

Adding automation to processes that were manual yet slick can actually lead to a process slow down. We worked with a client who was trying to improve their coffee making productivity by introducing semi-automatic coffee machines that took away the need to hand grind the beans. Rather than creating a productivity revolution that freed up time and help them get the coffee out quicker to thirsty customers in need of a caffeine hit; they actually took longer.

We found that the colleagues stood and watched the machine doing it’s automatic grinding rather than using the time to grab the cups and get ahead in the process. It’s a bit like when my mum got her first automatic washing machine and we all sat and watched it – until the novelty quickly work off.

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If you’ve implemented new tech, don’t sign the project off as complete until you’re sure the behavioural changes that will drive the benefit are in place too.

It is important to measure process and study how time is spent. Measure system delay – the time when your teams are waiting for data to upload or watching a wheel spin on their screens. Sometimes we see part of the process that just can’t cope with a particular combination of actions and crashes to a halt; and we also see scenarios where the whole thing just runs too slowly.

You’d be amazed how many businesses don’t check their underlying capacity can cope with the new tech. In a recent study we completed in an office with a new system, it takes 6% longer to do tasks caused by system delay. And while 6% might not sound too bad, by the time you turn it into payroll – it can be a lot of money.

You can accurately diagnose and quantify where you are losing time. However, you don’t always need to do a work study to spot some causes of lost time and reduced productivity. Just ask your team what frustrates them and slows them down. The people who work day in and out in your processes will provide a great pointer to where your problems lie. And listening to your team and acting on their feedback doesn’t just help you find the productivity sapping tech frustrations – it helps your team feel listened to and appreciated.

Move on from a technical way of thinking about user interfaces and recognise that where human meets machine is the source where the magic happens – or not!

Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world leading productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets. For more information see https://rethinkproductivity.co.uk/

Simon Hedaux, tech, productivity

See more articles about work here.

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