Pragmatic Office

Getting Things Done in the Office

Pragmatism and Technology

Offices of today have becomes havens of technology. Everywhere you look there is new technology deployed to make business more effective- but is it really effective? Does today’s technology help or hinder the building of the modern pragmatic office? Certainly things should be better. Prior to the invention of the computer, letters and documentation had to be typewritten. Liquid Paper was a revelation, and lauded for its contribution worldwide- it even made its creator a millionaire. The word processor was a revolution in and of itself- suddenly you could type one letter, make any changes, and then print when it was perfect. Being able to beat the competition certainly is a business advantage. But what about when the competition gets the same technology? Even the smallest Mom and Pop businesses now have at least one computer, most have several. The revolution from the past now is par for the course. Nicolas Carr outraged the IT world when he wrote, “IT Doesn’t Matter”. Although the title was certainly a bit controversial, he wasn’t saying to toss out your computers and go back to typewriters. His point is that once all the businesses have the same technology, it ceases to be an advantage and the playing field is level. The companies that can leverage new technology- or use the old technology in new ways, are the ones that will succeed. A pragmatic office focuses on the core business, rather than joining the latest fad. For example, you shouldn’t buy all new iPads for the senior staff because it’s “cool” and to show the company is hip to the latest fads and technology. You should absolutely purchase new iPads if they can enable the business- for example, doctors using the iPad as a virtual chart, and to be able to read test results immediately. Technology that fundamentally improves the business beyond its current capabilities is the target- technology for technology’s sake is not. The proper implementation of technology is also critically important, or it may in fact hinder your ability to drive revenue. For example, most CEOs realize that careful monitoring of the phone bill can save the company money. In fact, there are firms out there that specialize in tracking down the bill for every phone number in the company, and making sure you're paying only for services you absolutely need. In addition, a company cell phone policy, which is enforced, is another essential that many small and midsize firms neglect. Best case scenario the company receives a bill for overages due to personal calls- a worse case an employee tweets confidential information prior to public release. Along those same lines, an internet acceptable use policy must also be in place. Sure the company must be online in order to compete, but does everyone need access? Is that maintenance supervisor on Facebook for 6 hours a day doing so at the company's behalf? Careful deployment of technology, and strict guidelines for its use, is essential to ensure the company can not only compete, but develop competitive advantage.

Pragmatism and Personnel

Most companies are willing to spend money to train staff on technology related to their primary job- which, of course, is a great idea to make sure you're getting the most out of your sunk costs. Where many companies fall down is assuming that a good employee has the required skillsets to perform taskings beyond their current job scope effectively. For example, a great Accounts Receiveable Clerk may not make a great manager, without some training on how to manage staff. Contrary to popular belief, leadership skills are not magically acquired through osmosis, and require development and study, just like finance. Senior management is also not immune (or too busy as the common excuse) the requirement for additional training and education. Leadership and Management is a science, and the most advantegous person to educate in the company is often the one with the most power to make changes, model behavior, and encourage their peers/suborinates. Also, cross training the staff is not only beneficial for their resumes, but the company as a whole. If there's an emergency and the "Go To" guy is not available, cross training can mean the difference between succeed and failing. In addition, cross training outside the department can be beneficial as well. Suppose you train your engineering staff on basic sales technique. This will provide a multitude of benefits. As a few examples- their presentations will improve (understanding the business as opposed to technical reasoning). Critical decision making will improve (should we work on this or that feature? Sales will improve if we do X). Finally unexpected benefits often also materialize- such as generating sales leads when they attend a technical conference. Ensuring your people are properly trained- not just in their everyday job, will contribute not only to their professional enrichment and satisfaction, but the company bottom line as well.