Robert Sigmond, IT Manager at Forbo Eurocol Nederland BV
Productivity, Technology, People. How to solve the maze?
The Oxford Dictionary defines Productivity as:
“the rate at which a worker, a company, or a country produces goods or services, and the amount produced, compared with how much time, work, and money is needed to produce them”
But what is productivity in todays’ business reality?
We tried to understand it by interviewing an IT Manager with 35 years of experience, Robert Sigmond. He works at Forbo Eurocol Nederland BV, an international company in the Netherlands, that develops and produces adhesives and levelling compounds for the building sector. One of his main goals (and passion) is to make people more productive, efficient and effective. So, nobody better than Robert understands what an increase of user productivity means for a company. Here is an extract from the interview with him.
Q: So, what is productivity in your opinion?
A: People can do more in the same amount of time, being more efficient and more effective, achieving their goals in a shorter amount of time.
Q: Do you think that, to be more productive, you need someone that motivates you or it is just a natural attitude that some people have and some other don’t?
A: For some reasons, I’ve always had the drive to encourage people to get the most out of their software tooling. In my role as application manager, it is my task to facilitate the users with software that supports their business goals. Over the years I came to the conclusion that it’s not only the software itself, but also the behavior of people while using the application, that is important. You can have state-of-the-art software, but if people aren’t using it properly, it will not increase their productivity. Of course, you also need external motivation. If I see an IT solution demonstrated that can help our business forward, I am always looking for ways to fit in into our own software and hardware landscape, as I did with a many IT solutions. I must say, the people at Silverside have inspired me a lot with their solutions and ideas. Following the experts on social media, that show us what is possible with innovative solutions, also does a lot with my motivation to improve our IT services.
Q: It is nice to hear that there are people who see an opportunity for improvement.
A: This is something we always have to strive for, continual service improvement. Luckily, when I look at my colleagues, there are always some people who share these ideas of improvement and want to work with me. They are also the people who enthusiastically start using the new tooling we roll out and make sure it will be widely adopted throughout the organization. Without the help of these so called ‘early adopters’, it is really difficult to start such a productivity increase initiative. Making people more productive is not something you can easily make a business case of. It’s difficult to measure increase of personal productivity and translate it into hard cash. Luckily my management recognizes the value of such a project. It is therefore part of a bigger digital transformation initiative, where we are preparing ourselves for the future.
Q: Yes, but you can compare how it was before and how it is after the productivity increased, right?
A: Exactly, but there is more to it. You can separate two components in here, behavior and result. You have to influence behavior to produce a desired result. In our case we want to use improved collaboration tooling to increase productivity. By making sure people are using the software correctly in their environment (changing of behavior) we can get an increased productivity (result) that we can measure. In my opinion, it is wise to invest in user adoption strategies to make sure your efforts to achieve more productivity will be successful.
Q: Before you mentioned time management. How important is it to save time while doing your work and projects? And how do you manage and save your time?
A: Well, using the right tooling could save you a lot of time. Because not having a lot of time, collaboration is critical. What is still the number-one tool in a lot of organizations when it comes to collaboration …email! In this day and age where information needs to be exchanged fast and efficient, we use a more than 40-year-old technology to do our business with!
If you look around in your private environment, you see a lot of applications used that are way more efficient. How do you collaborate and communicate with your friends? By emailing them? No, you use a tool like WhatsApp. Why? Because it’s fast, easy, accessible. So, using a chat based platform within our business wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
We now have started to use Microsoft Teams. By collaborating with this platform, we will save a lot of time. No emailing back and forth asking for things, remember activities, meetings, responding to questions to different people etc. It will all be done on one workspace where you can have conversations, do skype meetings, share and work on the same documents and switch between different applications. All from within one workspace that can be accessible for everybody, regardless of the device they are working on.
Q: So, being more productive at work is really valuable and possible!
A: Absolutely! But it does not happen automatically. Like I said, you have to change the working behavior of people in the organization. By rolling out the software and giving a brief explanation to the user, just doesn’t cut it. IT is good at installing and maintaining software solutions. Making sure people work with it in a correct and agreed sort of way, is not something that an IT department has to do. Actually, there is no role in the company that is responsible for such a task. Therefore, a good adoption strategy is necessary to make the change from one tool to another and to make sure people work with it in a way that is effective to the organization. It’s my personal challenge to enable this and bring out the best in people within the company. With a good IT solution and a good user adoption method, I will surely succeed.
Under the light of these precious insights, managers should bear in mind that productivity is about people’s efficiency at work. Technological tools are important to ensure effectiveness, but in the end, everything depends on people’s behavior and managers must develop a strategy to deal with it.
Thanks Robert for your inspiring vision.