What Productivity Really Means in IT

People like me try very hard to cut the gobbledegook, and put some of the nonsense tech language into something more meaningful for people of a more normal, less techno-weird persuasion. 

We don’t always succeed.

‘Productivity’ is on the cusp of creating confusion.  What do we mean when we refer to productivity solutions?  I’m certainly not going into macroeconomics and input/output ratios. 

No, productivity solutions are solutions that help people become more, er, productive.

The problem is that, by definition, this can mean virtually any solution.  For example, CRM may help your sales team become more productive by adding sales force automation such as business process flows or rules, allowing them to focus on the relationship with the customer. 

Similarly, an ERP solution may provide your sales ledger clerks with a quick view of orders that need to be processed so that this happens as a priority, allowing stock to be ordered swiftly.

In a sense, this demonstrates the point I’m about to make.

Productivity suites usually refer to the staple diet of applications most of us use and take for granted: word processors, spread sheets, presentations and so on.  Look, Wikipedia even says so. 

These systems are so often the poor relation to the flashy, whizz-bang likes of CRM, ERP, SharePoint and so on.  We just take it for granted that they’re there (but moan like hell when they don’t work properly) and often work with old versions because, well, they do what we’ve always asked them to do.

As we move forward, old faithfuls like Microsoft Office are making somewhat of a resurgence and taking more of a front seat in integrated solutions that work the way your business does. 

If you have a few minutes to spare, check out this short ‘day in the life’ video from Microsoft that shows an example: 

Today, we are already talking about real time collaboration between co-workers on sales proposal Word documents, produced from CRM, but stored in SharePoint.  In the next few months, we’ll bring to you updates to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV that include the ability to create your invoice templates from within Word.

Features within the Office suite are being released in quick sprint cycles, in the same way our R&D team work with our own products like Tribe; they’re also using technology developed for other services too. 

Take search, for example.  There’s a new feature in Word: you want to use a tool, but don’t know where the item is in the ribbon? Just use the natural language search box, et voila.

This feature alone will save me a small amount of time, several times, but the resulting lack of frustration at not finding the feature I use once every 6 months will be welcomed by my colleagues who bear the brunt.

The way we use productivity solutions is changing, reflecting the changes to our working practices.  Whether you bring your own device to work or just read emails, using productivity solutions on your tablet or smartphone is only as good as the apps themselves. 

Let’s face it, most of us use Office in the office, so having to use Pages or Numbers to read or edit documents on the go isn’t a great experience.  Thank goodness, then, for Microsoft Office for iPad, where the familiarity it brings allows the user to just get on with it from where they left off. 

This ubiquity is important – we know how we work best and having devices and applications that allow that, again, makes us more productive.

Perhaps it’s time to take another look at how you use productivity solutions, and work out how you can get more from something you already have.