Productive IT Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

As your company is settling in to the new year, you should ask yourself one question: If you measure productivity by the amount of customer-focused work being produced by individuals, does your IT department help accomplish that?

With rapidly evolving technologies and seemingly endless considerations about compatibility and upgrades, the technology-to-productivity curve is low, according to Fred Pratt, CEO of DYONYX.

“Productivity is much more than having sophisticated tools,” Pratt says. “To understand and measure productivity, business must return to the basics. Remember what your company’s goals are and then define how each business unit supports those goals.”

Smart Business spoke with Pratt about productivity, IT’s role in it and how to get all aspects of your business on the same page.

How should a business look at productivity?

Productivity is not just about how much has been manufactured and how much it sold for; it is about each and every component that makes up the process of producing a deliverable for the customer. Productivity is best defined as ROE, return on effort.

Productivity has many small and often unnoticed components that cause a ripple effect up and down the line. Productivity includes how well you recognize what triggers a customer to order, why customers ordered from you instead of the competition, and whether or not they will order from you again. Productivity is about what products are being created to support the customer requirements and whether or not the profit margins are where they need to be to remain competitive. Productivity is also about how all of the costs of doing business can be properly accounted for. Finally, productivity is those intangible elements of being able to determine if you are really providing a value to the customer. This will ultimately determine your corporation’s position in the market.

Does enhanced technology equal enhanced productivity?

Based on raw horsepower, desktop computing should have a higher productivity rate than ever before. Desktop computing capability far exceeds the mainframe capacity in many large companies from just a few years ago. The average desktop user can now produce multimedia presentations for customers, merge several different types of documents into one and access data from all over the world, data they could never access before. So if productivity relates directly to the horsepower available to a user, we should be much more efficient than before.

Are companies more efficient than ever before?

The productivity figures gathered from GNP numbers for the past few years show nearly a flat-line average with some spikes and dips, yet technology has grown at an almost ballistic rate. Is there a separation occurring from technology and productivity? The situation is a paradox: If you do not have time to explore the technology, you cannot fully understand the capabilities of it and increase your productivity. Yet, if users are exploring the technology, then they are not completing their daily job functions and are not as productive.

Since a separation is being created because of technology outrunning users’ ability to utilize it, the separation will widen with the accelerated rate of new technology development. New training techniques are coming into the market that will shorten the productivity curve time; however, technology being available and technology being deployed into practical use are two different things. Often, by the time a business is ready to use a technology, the tools are already outdated.

How can IT help bridge the gap?

IT groups are frustrated and cannot understand the unreasonableness of the users. Users say IT groups do not provide them with what they need to do the job. As a result of not meeting the user groups’ needs, the business units will begin to seek their own solutions. Then business units are buying or designing technology without IT support, which makes for conflict.

If IT could fully understand the problem and develop a solution that includes the business unit, it would get more cooperation from business. This means that IT must close the gap between technology and a user’s production level, which is not easy since you have technical people trying to teach business people how to use the desktop tools. The business unit wants to be able to do its job better; the IT wants to get a technology installed and move on to the next problem.

Technology is often installed by IT because it is the latest revision, not because it solves a business problem. The first objective of IT should be to increase productivity with the tools that exist; just saying that the tools exist without them being used does not help the corporation.

FRED PRATT is the CEO of DYONYX. Reach him at (713) 293-6305 or