Reversing Reverse Productivity

John Newton Alfrescoby John Newton | 3/2/16

Ever feel like the harder you work, the less productive you become? This is a common feeling in the age of the digital enterprise where data and information are proliferating at an unprecedented rate and, in response, we’ve adopted more and “better” technology to help us manage the deluge. The goal, of course, is to create more efficient and innovative systems, but could the opposite be true?


Several recent studies suggest that the technologies we employ to make us more productive are actually making us worse at doing our jobs.

  • A 2014 Harris poll of employees and hiring managers identified mobile device usage, Internet surfing, email and social media as the top productivity killers.
  • Another recent survey found that workers are interrupted by themselves or others every three minutes – particularly by email – and that once distracted, it can take up to 23 minutes to get back on track.
  • According to a survey from Alfresco, 98 percent of connected workers rely on collaboration to get their work done, and 83 percent of those workers rely on technology to collaborate, but 59 percent find these tools challenging.

Despite this information, we can’t throw away the tools that make up our primary methods of communication, nor do we want to. A survey conducted by Pew found that 61 percent of respondents ranked email as the most important tool that impacts the way that they work.

Ultimately, productivity in the workplace drives business growth and success so we have to find a way to implement systems that will actually make us more productive. Here are six steps to help you make your workplace technology work for you.

  • Pay attention to any changes in your business. Have you noticed or tracked any productivity losses in the recent past? Be sure to also check the possible results of a reduction in productivity such as output, revenues, etc. If these numbers are down, you could have a productivity crisis on your hands.
  • Take stock of your digital environment – all of the apps, devices, IT systems and more. Not only should you generally understand the effect each of these might have on your work environment, you should also identify if any productivity losses explored above are tied to a new tool implemented in your workplace.
  • Evaluate your technology needs and options. Understand all of your digital needs and identify all possible tools and systems to organize and streamline the data deluge. Evaluate the pros and cons of each based on the needs specific to your workplace.
  • Choose easy and flexible tools. Choose tools and IT systems that offer best ease-of-management along with deployment flexibility. Remember that the easier a solution is to use, the faster it will be adopted.
  • Integrate everything. Be sure to integrate all systems fully into the processes, people and other technology solutions. Using an open approach gives you the ability to integrate with all systems, and update and scale as your needs change.
  • Continually evaluate the effectiveness of your systems in helping productivity. To do so, simply start back at step one and proceed as needed.

While employees are struggling with reverse productivity, companies are overburdened by information fat and this slows them down. This shouldn’t be the case given the number of technological tools at business leaders’ disposal that can be implemented to skim the fat. Now is the time to look for systems that are simple to use and have the ability to make your company more information-agile. Ultimately, by addressing their productivity downfalls, organizations will revolutionize the way they do business.

John Newton is CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco – a leading provider of modern Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Business Process Management (BPM) software. He has had one of the longest and most influential careers in content management; he co-founded Documentum and built its marketing and professional services organizations in Europe, invented many of the concepts widely used in the industry today, served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Benchmark Capital and was one of the founding engineers at Ingres. Follow John @johnnewton.