Panel: More technology doesn’t mean more productivity

A panel of IT industry experts sat down for a round table discussion in Toronto on Tuesday to discuss whether technology has become more of a foe than friend.

“It might be ironic that Avaya is here to talk about the fact that we might have too much technology,” said Mario Belanger, president of Canadian operations for Markham, Ont.-based Avaya Canada, adding that it is important to find out how organizations and employees perceive technology today.

Although technologies, including wireless devices such as cell phones and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, are usually brought into organizations to increase employee productivity, Belanger explained that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Through a study conducted by communications equipment provider Avaya Canada, Belanger explained the company discovered that 61 per cent of those surveyed said they missed important communications because they didn’t know which of their devices they should be checking for messages.

Avaya also reported that 54 per cent of the survey participants felt overwhelmed by technology.

“It’s quite amazing because even with all this technology, I still have people missing meetings,” noted panel member Don Cousens, mayor of Markham, Ont. Just as Avaya discovered from its survey, Cousens said that people — including himself — tend to miss meetings because they aren’t sure which one of their devices they should check continuously for messages.

Although more devices may mean that there is a greater capacity for communication, communication in and of itself doesn’t mean improved productivity, noted Wendy Cukier, associate dean, Faculty of Business at Ryerson University in Toronto.

There may be a rise in efficiency as more e-mails are getting replied to and more phone messages are being answered, but there is a decline in effectiveness, she added. For example, if an employee is answering an e-mail while dealing with business over the phone, two things are getting done, but neither is getting done well because they don’t have the employee’s full attention, she explained.

Cukier also said innovation and creativity are born from slack time, so companies need to consider this when deciding on their employees’ workloads.

Although some companies are beginning to see that too much technology can be problematic to an organization, other companies are still throwing more technology at the problem, explained Roberta Fox, president and senior partner of Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont.

To avoid implementing technology that will be sure to fail, Fox cautioned companies to hold off on an implementation until there is extensive end-user training and education sessions. She added that she isn’t aware of any voice over IP implementations, for example, that have gone in without companies first insisting upon end-user training.

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