Monday, February 8, 2010

Increasing productivity using technology is not straightforward

Recently there seems to be an overdose of articles talking about increasing productivity. The most common example given is: 8 people can do the work of 10 people.

This in my opinion is one of the worst examples you can ever give. Taking the sentence standalone, and taking the sentence as part of a paragraph describing processes to help you increase productivity can mean a world of difference. The default meaning which almost everyone will use is that the bosses should squeeze more work into the remaining workers.

One of the few ways where you can increase productivity is by harnessing technology. Technology however should not just strictly follow the current business process and it should assist or cut down some of the business processes.

The problem with technology is that most users insist on bringing their business processes to the system without recommending changes to shorten/improve the business process. Granted that not all business processes can be improved, but it is possible that certain long processes can be shortened if the policies behind it are adjusted accordingly. In fact, some systems fail because the manual processes were brought into the system without any attempt in re-engineering the process. Systems are always driven by business processes. That's the number one rule all should remember.

There are also cases where certain policies are enforced through technology, which may cause inconveniences to all the users. Reactions vary but I've seen cases where the users totally avoid the IT department because they felt that they are building obstacles, preventing them from reaching their ideal state. This is rather extreme and also dangerous. There are always certain policies which you must comply. Big companies are usually audited and when the time comes, will you be able to answer why the system did not have so and so policy built within?

Productivity may increase due to business process re-engineering but the efficiency gained may be offset by the security features in place. It's not easy increasing productivity and I felt that the articles written did not convey that meaning across.

In fact, I think the only meaning that got across is that the bosses are going to give us more work. Period. Productivity will decrease quite rapidly the more you multitask. You can refer to my post here on this topic. The articles would be better written if they have not tried to use the word productivity which is the end result, but instead concentrate on the processes that will lead to it. Pity... Singapore is going to get some pretty unhappy workers soon if the bosses are reading the articles in the wrong way.


Anonymous said...

LSS was way ahead of this high powered committee, i.e. Cheaper, Better, Faster.

I have some advice for those who are interested too:

1. Spend less, sell more, increase profit.
2. Reduce inventory, improve availability, increase turnover.
3. Carry more, run faster.
4. Reduce staff and cut overtime, produce more.
5. Reduce input, increase output.
6. Can't do it? Go for re-training.

Yes, go Faster, worry about direction later!

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