World Productivity Day: Tech tips for productivity leaders
World Productivity Day, 20th June, is a time for organisations to take a moment of mindfulness and a step back from the daily grind to consider to reflect upon the effectiveness of the way they operate as well as look forward to what new tools and knowledge can help maximise efficiency.
Here, nine experts from very different sectors of the technology industry suggest technology and business tips that the board should look into in order to elevate an entire organisation to new heights of productivity.
Using data for better business insights
Alan Gibson, SVP EMEA at Alteryx, believes organisations would do well to work on enabling all employees to extract valuable insights from available data:
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure goes the saying, and measurement is all about the right data. One of the factors behind stellar profitability (and productivity) is the availability – and the ability to manage – data. The ultimate value in data is when it becomes ubiquitous, so it’s no use for just a few people to be able to manage complex data analysis whilst the rest of us wait for the answers to our questions.
Business leaders of today and tomorrow need insights at the speed of business so everyone needs access to the data they understand and work with as part of their everyday roles. With data scientists in short supply, everyone has the ability to become a citizen data scientist, or everyday analyst as long as they can dive in on the right analytics platform, to bring meaningful results utilising advanced analytics – without the need to write or understand code.”
However, Kunal Argawal, CEO at Unravel Data, believes application management is vital to truly deliver on big data investments:
“Big data can be a challenge, especially due to the sheer volume of it that exists today. Managing applications is highly complex and requires an end-to-end solution to optimally meet SLA requirements.
So what could be a possible solution to the productivity plateau that often occurs with complex technology investments? One solution lies in the hands of application performance management (APM) software. This technology is used to manage the tools and technologies of varied project groups within the enterprise. It monitors big data stacks in order to identify failed jobs or queries, the misallocation of computing resources or missed SLAs. Pair this with automation, and you have an optimised process which produces faster and better results for the entire organisation. It represents a productivity haven for the DataOps teams.
Investing for the future through strong instructure
John Morrison, Senior Vice President EMEA at Extreme Networks, says that putting money behind technology is crucial to the overall better working of business:
“Breaking down geographical barriers and organisational silos to empower collaboration and seamless access to information, data and insight is not only central to digital transformation, but to unlocking new levels of productivity inside and outside your organisation.
Whether friction is eliminated through the cloud and edge computing or the implementation of progressive technologies like IoT, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence the core principle remains the same: none of this is possible without the right network in place. The network sits at the heart of any transformation journey no matter how simple. Only with a robust digital infrastructure and high-performance connectivity can you seek to unlock the productivity and efficiency savings that technology offers.”
Scott Brothers, Group EVP Corporate Development at ONVU Technologies, believes that adding the power and speed of digital into the physical world brings true business intelligence:
“Solutions like augmented reality or smart video that work with and enhance the human capability really improve productivity as well as satisfaction for workers in areas where they need to navigate space and assets in the real world. Improving digital productivity is great, but many workers still need to move stock around a warehouse, help customers through a store, or plan how the public will travel through a busy city street or travel interchange. They need ways of observing the space, how long people wait in queues, the most common paths taken through areas, and how fast vehicles are moving.
All of these require observers and special tools – unless smart video is deployed to monitor and analyse the scene and provide actionable intelligence to make planners and employees more productive and empathetic to customers’ needs. 360-degree video and smart video technologies are perfect productivity match to help workers making the most of their environment."
Maintain a good level of cyber hygiene
John Titmus, EMEA Director, CrowdStrike, would argue that human productivity is increasingly intertwined with human productivity:
“It’s becoming clear that human productivity is entwined with technology efficiency. In the cybersecurity domain the threat of zero-day attacks and new variants of malware mean that a workforce can be made unproductive as fast as an email can be sent or a malicious link shared over instant messaging. AI and cloud-powered solutions enable organisations to react in real-time to threats, monitoring the environment and stopping threats and breaches before they break out into serious threats.”
Nailing the who, when and where
Jeff Paradise, Chief Revenue Officer at Pipedrive believes that what you don’t spend your time on is just as important as what you do spend your time on:
“One of the main productivity hacks I’ve learnt is to keep two clear lists of tasks: one personal and one professional. I have over 150 employees on my team and need something which gives me a clear overview of today’s and this week’s ‘must-dos’. I wouldn’t be able to handle all of this successfully without a tool that helps me stay organised, keeps track of all projects, and addresses crucial priorities in a timely manner.
My advice for driving new levels of productivity is finding a system and platform that helps you to be mindful of all the tasks at hand. Look for ways to automate some of the more time-consuming activities that usually hinder your workflow, as this will help you to direct your time toward the higher priority assignments and free you up for building relationships with your clients, new-business prospects and colleagues.”
Dustin Moskovitz, CEO and Co-founder of work management tool, Asana takes the approach to ban meetings on one day every week:
“My biggest hurdle to productivity is interruptions. To accomplish something that requires deep thinking, I need to have at least an hour–ideally two to three–of contiguous free time on my calendar. This requires careful planning of group meetings that I do need to attend, and diligence to avoid unnecessary engagements.
We practice “No Meeting Wednesdays” to ensure that everyone at the company gets a large block of time to focus on heads-down work without having to fit it in between meetings. This may be our most valuable cultural practice, and I encourage every company to consider adopting it.
Additionally, we reflect frequently on whether our group activities are getting enough ROI to justify the interrupt and time expenditure. Recently, we decided to cut the number of all-hands meetings almost by half to give more time back to the team for focused work.”
Carl Standertskjold, Corporate Segment Marketing Manager, Sony Professional Solutions Europe believes that great levels of productivity can be achieved if you optimise your workplace environment:
“While individuals and teams might be the primary drivers of productivity, how the environment within which they operate is set up and functions is almost as important. Too often do organisations only focus on how employees are going about doing their work, rather than on the tools and technologies at their disposal. Connected professional displays, advanced room booking systems, high-end video conferencing technologies and more are all a part of an effective, efficient and productive workplace ecosystem. If businesses want to truly tap into and unlock hidden pockets of productivity, then they should make optimising the workplace environment a priority first.”
While all the above provides valuable insight into how businesses can tangibly increase productivity, many will attest that mindset is one of the biggest challenges to meet when it comes to embracing a more productive business. As neatly summarised by Peter Arvai, Co-founder and CEO,Prezi: “Be clear on your long term strategy and goals. Spend time thinking ahead about what you want and how you went to get there. With clarity of where you’re headed long term (and doing the hard work in advance), you can make the right decisions when you need to - quickly and easily.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.