Disruption, not destruction: Why we should re-think technology in the workplace

When you hear ‘disruption in the workplace’, what do you think of? For some it may be automation, faceless and paperless communication, and offices dominated by artificial intelligence. It might bring to mind extreme change in a short period of time, which businesses tend to be uncomfortable with, particularly if they’re already happy with their day-to-day operations and feel that they are able to compete with the best.   

But introducing disruptive technology doesn’t have to be as extreme as replacing humans with machines. The most effective disruptors address a simple problem. Uber has achieved global success by cutting out the need to search your pockets for change at the end of a taxi journey. Airbnb has made it easy, and profitable, to make money by renting out your own home. Netflix has taken the commitment out of paying for DVDs and box sets or renting individual films online. And in the healthcare sector, high-quality video technology is allowing clinicians to diagnose, treat and support patients remotely, saving money and removing the need for people to travel long distances. 

Disruptive technology is everywhere, and has a place in every business, whether you hope to be the next Airbnb or not. It’s often far subtler than creating the newest household name tech platform. Instead it’s about changing the way people act, work and think. Disruptive technology needs to be embraced if companies want to enhance productivity and overtake the competition.   

Often, disruption simply means looking inwards. It’s crucial to analyse internal processes and identify any areas that could be improved upon. Minor irritations, such as having to make multiple phone calls and send several emails to get hold of a document, or delays due to missing out on speaking to people in different time zones, can amount to a large decrease in productivity over time. Small changes, such as adopting technology that can improve communication and enable collaboration, can have a big impact on productivity.   

This introspection is becoming increasingly necessary as working habits change. Employees are demanding flexibility more than ever, and companies that don’t adapt risk losing out on the best talent. Today’s workforce are often keen to be able to work at home, on the train, or in a café seamlessly without any issues, and global companies with offices overseas require ways to communicate as instantly as they would in the same room. 

What are the facts? 

We surveyed over 500 IT users and 200 IT managers, and found that 79% of IT users believe that technology can make them more productive, something that 75% of IT managers see as a priority.   

However, we found that the needs of IT users aren’t being taken into account by businesses. Only 8% of the IT users that we surveyed believed that their company’s IT strategy was supporting the overall business success. Employees see better technology as a way to improve their way of working and support business growth, but most IT departments aren’t acting on this. This often leads to individuals using more advanced technology in their personal lives, than in their business lives, leading to discontent and frustration when they work with outdated devices each day. 

Companies need to invest in efficient and fit-for-purpose hardware and software for their employees to use, or they will find themselves with a dissatisfied and inefficient workforce. Research by BT and Avaya found that 62% of employees under 35 years old were frustrated with the technology available to them at work. It makes sense – if employees are spending half their day trying to get their aging computers to load, it will inevitably result in low productivity levels, which will have a negative impact on the business.   

Firms should remind themselves of that age-old cliché – time is money. So anything which will increase efficiency and make it easier for employees to do their jobs is definitely worth investing in. Disrupting traditional processes can pay dividends.   

How can companies make the most of disruptive technology?  

IT professionals should first consider the technological blockages to productivity in the workplace. For instance – out of the office? Technology which seamlessly redirects a caller from your direct number to your mobile when you’re out of the office could solve communication issues. If you’re not sure whether it’s a good time to call someone, a phone display that shows you which of your contacts are available and move an in-progress call to your mobile when you move away from your desk could help.   

Screen share, video conferencing and instant messaging are also features that increase productivity since they allow seamless real-time collaboration, regardless of location or device. This makes these technologies particularly beneficial for companies operating from multiple offices overseas.   

There’s an increased demand for this type of technology, particularly if it allows participants in a conversation to share messages or documents. It may seem like a small change, but sharing files instantly, rather than promising to over a video call and then having to find them and send them at a later date, can improve productivity significantly over time.   

What’s described above is a unified communications strategy, but if it’s bespoke to a business and really changes the way you work then it’s definitely disruption.   

These are simple solutions to problems which seem small, but can quickly accumulate to have hugely negative consequences if they are left unsolved. These types of technologies already exist and, if embraced, can reduce the amount of time wasted each day, significantly enhancing productivity.   

Technology is developing more rapidly than ever, and competition is becoming fiercer in every sector. There’s a race for businesses to evolve, and the companies that will survive will be those that are equipped with the best disruptive tools. 

No matter which sector a business operates in, where there are inefficiencies, there is scope for disruption. And our survey results have shown that if IT managers really want to get ahead, they need to stop fearing change, adjust their perceptions of what disruption means, and look to invest in tech. 

Matt Johnson, CTO at Intercity Technology 

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