Why Isn't Our Productivity Software Making us Productive?

David Hall, Director of IT, Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network
David Hall, Director of IT, Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network

David Hall, Director of IT, Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network

Why isn’t my productivity software making me productive? It’s a question that organizations seem to be asking themselves time and time again. After all, they have made significant investments in the latest tool, aligned the right resources, hired the best consultant, and ensured that the tool’s implementation went well, yet nothing seems to be improving. Why?

  While it is important to understand everything you want to accomplish, don’t try to accomplish it all at once. 

To find the answer, organizations need to go back to the beginning. Many organizations assume that by investing in a productivity solution, “productivity” will magically happen. They believe the solution they’re implementing will know what they need to do, what they need to measure, and what changes to make to improve productivity. What these organizations forget is that if they don’t first define the problem, there is no guarantee that the solution will match the problem(s) they need to solve.

How can this be avoided? And if a solution is in place and not working, what can be done? It all starts with knowing where you are. Something that is often forgotten when implementing productivity software is that a good understanding of your starting point is the key to any implementation being successful. In the early 2000s, there was a game show that dropped contestants in the middle of an unknown country and did not tell them where they were. The first task was to figure out their current location. Without knowing that, they could not figure out how to get to the next goal. It is the same for the journey to better productivity.

Establishing your starting point can be done by examining the following five criteria:

1. What projects and operations are currently in process?
2. Who is working on each of these projects and operations?
3. How much effort is being put into each project or operations?
4. For the projects, when will they be done?
5. What projects and operations have not yet started?

Without completing this evaluation, it is difficult to measure where you are and if your efforts are having any success. It is also difficult to know where to focus your investments to increase productivity. It would be like a contestant on that game show, standing in the middle of a field in an unknown country, blindly choosing a direction to walk and hoping it takes her where she wants to go.

Once you know where you are, the next step is to determine where you want to go. Most productivity software systems, from simple timekeeping and project management solutions to comprehensive productivity solutions such as PPM software, will do and measure exactly what you tell it to. If you tell it to do nothing, that is what it does. Determine what is important to measure – what are the key metrics that define productivity for your organization? Then make sure your solution is a) capable of measuring them, and b) configured to measure them.

Also, while it is important to understand everything you want to accomplish, don’t try to accomplish it all at once. Many solutions introduce too much change at once, decreasing productivity instead of increasing. Have a well-defined roadmap that tackles the biggest need upfront, then slowly adds on capabilities to either enhance the solution for the biggest need or tackle an additional problem.

Going back to the beginning and planning the path forward will drastically improve the success you have with any productivity solution and will likely keep you from asking the dreaded question of why the software into which you just sunk time, money and energy isn’t making you more productive.

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