Q&A with HCL – Overcoming barriers to productivity

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IT Pro Portal spoke with Ashish Gupta, Corporate VP & Head – EMEA at $7.4 billion IT services company HCL Technologies, to find out how businesses could improve workforce productivity amidst the turbulence of the changing workplace. Ashish provides insight into how businesses can overcome the barriers to adopting new technologies; outlining the threats of old style corporate cultures and a lack of clear strategic direction can create. He goes on to outline how the flexibility and efficiency these new processes bring can reduce waste, and ultimately improve productivity for all businesses.   

1. What workplace productivity barriers are businesses currently experiencing?   

There are many challenges that businesses face, which hold them back from being an effective digital workplace. 

Firstly, many organisations have been starved of budget to upgrade adequately performing legacy IT systems over the last decade, forcing them to maintain ageing software on out of date operating systems. The nature of some of these applications mean they cannot be accessible other than from specific locations.

Unsuitable working environments are a further challenge. Whilst an open plan office can have its benefits, it is not an ideal place for creative thought, collaboration or meetings and can be the source of multiple disruptions during the working day. The lack of dedicated meeting rooms or collaboration spaces can make it hard for teams to function properly and collaborate effectively.

Inadequate connectivity can also be a barrier. Ageing networks and WAN links not fit for additional traffic created by cloud services can cause a slowdown in the performance of web applications, and render VOIP, voice and video calls of poor quality.   

The final challenge is resistance to change. This can hold back adoption of digital technologies by employees not comfortable with their ability to embrace new technologies and working practices. Guiding employees on the journey towards digital working can help them to understand the benefits that the changes in working can bring. 

2. How can the situation be improved?   

Changing the company culture to promote the digital workplace and making the working environment a vibrant, interesting and an enabling space to work in, underpins the technological changes that ultimately create a digitally enabled employee.   

In situations where IT systems have become out of date, discovery of what exists today, and analyses of applications and their business function can remove the barriers to centralising and upgrading systems to be 'digital ready'. As is often suggested, moving to cloud-based technologies is a journey, and knowing what you have and its value to the business is vital to understanding what success will look like. 

3. Which technologies can help business leaders to improve productivity? 

The process of 'assess, engage and change' should not be overlooked: technologies that enable this process  empower IT leaders to drive success in the knowledge of a defined business outcome mapped to the correct choice of digital technology. 

Office productivity, collaboration and communication technologies are an excellent starting point, removing the shackle to a specific location and email, empowering people and teams to collaborate without the baggage of old work methods.    

As an example, Microsoft 365 underpins digital transformation in the end user computing space. Maximising the value by effectively using Microsoft Teams within Office 365, combined with MyAnalytics, to understand where time is spent, driving true collaboration and improving personal productivity.   

The days of multiple people working offline in a Word document and emailing them as attachments and then pulling the amendments into one document are gone.   

Future thinking organisations are already implementing AI and bots to help employees find complex information they need quickly, when they need it, from wherever they are.   

4. Some employees feel new technologies don’t make them more productive. How can businesses overcome this issue?   

A digital workplace can be a great enabler to an employee’s productivity and personal happiness. A forward-thinking company culture, embracing flexible working practices that untether the employee, can contribute to a more harmonious work and home life balance. 

While a modern work style is achievable with the right mix of technology, knowledge and management culture, it isn’t always that way. Looking at organisations and how productive and engaged their employees are, it is clear there can be multiple organisational challenges that stifle productivity, some of which are caused inadvertently by the tools provided.   

Email dependency is one prime example. It’s rare to meet anyone who is employed solely to answer email, but it’s common to see many people locked into their email client, feeling stress if they are away from it, and trying to manage sometimes in excess of 100 emails a day. Instant collaboration would easily prevent a lot of these emails; an IM, a short telephone call, video conversation, or a short face-to-face conversation removes the wall between sender and recipient. 

Microsoft MyAnalytics (part of Office 365) is a hidden gem to let employees understand just how much time is spent being unproductive in sending emails that go unread, time spent in meetings - it is a revelation when a person looks at their statistics for the week and can visualise how their time is spent. 

One look at the ubiquitous Microsoft Office 365 suite will show an array of different excellent capabilities, including a number of collaboration options. Employees can communicate with Skype calls, Skype IM, Yammer, Teams, and SMS. This can cause confusion and fragmented communication without a clear policy or guidance on how and when to use which medium.   

Management culture is another example. In many businesses, flexible working is actively encouraged to help people work from home, a coffee shop or anywhere where they want. Allowing people to fit their work around the school run, gym class and family time takes a degree of trust, but often this is paid back in creativity productivity and loyalty.   

A digital workplace needs a digital culture to help drive the true benefits from the modern technologies that organisations have invested heavily in.   

Ashish Gupta - Corporate VP & Head – EMEA at HCL Technologies 

Image Credit: Bbernard / Shutterstock