Technology - friend or foe?

The ultimate goal of many IT projects today is increased employee productivity but organizations soon discover that technology can be more of a foe, than friend.

In many cases organizations are in danger of having too much technology which is overwhelming end users and creating confusion.

The most common problem is too many devices with a study released last week showing 61 percent of respondents claiming they missed important communications because they didn't know which of their devices they should be checking for messages.

A further 54 percent of respondents in the survey undertaken by communications equipment provider Avaya felt overwhelmed.

Technology for technology's sake? Or a simple case of organizations not maximizing the benefits of technology already in place?

Organizations generally adopt new technology to increase productivity and improve efficiencies but many industry pundits claim organizations do not maximise the benefits of technology implemented.

Considering all the energy and dedication committed to an enterprise rollout, Integ Communications CEO Ian Poole marvels at how some organizations implement VoIP then don't fully exploit the technology.

"IP can have a huge impact on an organization but rather than exploit unified communications they stick to voicemail, because most end users are typically laggards and will take the simple route," he said.

"Often, end users won't use new technology straight away and don't take advantage of it, so IT managers have just installed a new system and the real benefits are never realized, yet [companies] talk about ROI."

Poole said it isn't the fault of IT managers as there needs to be a serious commitment from senior executives that spreads across the company and supports end user training.

"CRM is a typical example. A company will re-engineer a solution to suit its needs instead of adapting to it out of the box; the company makes the technology fit the business and often these best-of-breed products have best practice process management [left unrealized].

"If it isn't right for your business, maybe you should be asking are my business processes right? Am I getting maximum benefits from this implementation?"

Roberta Fox, Fox Group Consulting partner, said many companies still throw technology at problems.

To avoid implementing technology that will fail, Fox said companies should hold off [on going live with] projects until extensive end user training is completed.

Wireless is another example where technology is implemented to improve productivity but often creates confusion for end users.

IDC's senior wireless analyst Warren Chaisatien said that frequently, more devices equals more confusion.

“I don’t want to sound negative but I do believe there’s too much choice now when it comes to technology," Chaisatien said.

“[More] communication devices don’t necessarily equal increased productivity although some organizations have had success with wireless solutions."

One example is BI vendor Cognos, which has implemented Blackberry technology for its senior management team.

David Merchant, Cognos marketing and alliance manager, said the project has been a success so, in this case, technology is more friend, than foe.

“People have been saying for 20 years that organizations are in danger of having too much technology. I don’t think there’s any danger; if a piece of technology comes along and doesn’t offer business benefits then you’ll most often find it won't become pervasive,” Merchant said.

Hutchison 3G director of stakeholder relations, Steve Wright believes different solutions give different outcomes and the key is having the right mix to reap the benefits.

With Lindsay Bruce

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