Is Technology overload really improving employee productivity?


Historically, CIOs and their IT departments were blamed for the technical debt and lack of pace of innovation / transformation. The way systems were architected, IT used to rollout a major deployment once in a year (or once in two) with smaller upgrades in between. This led to inconsistent end user experience with colleagues in same role (same office) would often end up with different versions of operating systems and applications apart from different end user devices. This issue was even worse for enterprises, globally or across locations.

Tech Industry realised this challenge a decade and half ago, with major OEMs & Services companies making changes to the way product lifecycle was being managed and updates rolled out. Evergreen & Digital became buzzwords with Cloud based Services. All these resulted in a major shift on how technology is being deployed and consume. The messaging nowadays is that latest and greatest technology is aimed to improve end user experience while increasing productivity.

CIOs now want to be seen as innovative and transformative, hence the speed at which new technology is being rolled out is crazy. In the name of digital transformation, innovation and transformation, is business and IT going overboard? Is this technology overload causing the employees to feel overwhelmed? Are the employees really productive due this technology overload?

Technology overload is absolutely an area of concern in today’s world, with new technology being pushed on a regular basis (weekly if not daily) resulting in employees being overwhelmed. This is not a new phenomenon, Deloitte published an article way back in 2014 on – The Overwhelmed Employee: Simplify the work environment. It is still relevant, rather I would say extremely relevant today.

Do More, Explore

Instead of being able to get the most out of existing technology, employees end up being pushed newer ones. That is why in most of my discussions with IT leaders, I promote the ‘Do More, Explore’ strategy. It is around ensuring that employees are utilizing a technology solution available to them, to the fullest to be more productive. As an example, even though MS Excel being a popular productivity solution globally, still most of employees roughly use only 30% of Excel features, resulting in them being far less productive than what they should be using MS Excel. IT and business should focus more on ensuring that more and more Excel features are explored rather than pushing next set of similar overlapping solutions. The focus should be persona and role aligned, with the aim of solving use cases rather than trying to provide generic Excel trainings.

IT guilty of pushing Tech

Yes, technology does allow better collaboration and communication across various device forms via plethora of business and consumer applications. This constant access and availability, to a large extent is beneficial for both business and employee. However, it does cause the unpleasant sense of technology overload and brings in psychological disorders that are destroying employee’s productivity. Employees are struggling to find a balance between the convenience that technology brings along with the consequences associated with it. A tired, overworked employee without any breaks from always being online is never going to be optimally productive.

Voice of Employees

In most of the cases, the solutions deployed are designed and architected in isolation, with employees being brought onboard during the testing or pilot phase. A global leader in paints, recently embarked on transforming their workplace with a vision of Consumerised Experience for Employees – to not only improve end users experience and productivity, but also bridge the gap in how employees perceive technology at home and work. A great initiative and I wish them success; however, this can only be successful if employees at all levels are made stakeholders in this initiative, from the initial stage. For a long time employees have not been heard, resulting in CIOs end up taking such initiatives. Instead of IT leaders deciding based upon their perception as to what the gap is and what will it take to provide a consumerised experience, the voice of employees needs to be heard – loud and clear.

Business and IT need to find way to educate users around ways to reduce technology overload, both in the enterprise and outside of it. Be selective on technology being deployed – with an aim to keep employees being overwhelmed, while making them productive in real sense.