Remember the last time you went to the office, spread the day’s newspapers across your desk before pecking away on your IBM Selectric for a bit before heading off to a relaxing oyster and martini lunch? I sure don’t! It’s because today, the way we conduct our jobs is completely different from the Mad Men era.
There is a staggering amount of digital tools aimed at increasing workforce productivity in the market that would make any Mad Man’s head hurt. But they aren’t alone. IT departments and employees are finding themselves with a sometimes overwhelming variety of brands, standards and user interfaces to learn and navigate. I’ll bet you wouldn’t be surprised that the average employee uses three or more devices daily for work activities.
However, while all of this technology is intended to increase communication and productivity, cross-company and cross-office collaboration can actually become more challenging when employees are presented with new iterations of digital tools that are not inherently compatible with other resources available in their office or daily lives. To illustrate the impact and need for more standardization in workplace technology, let’s look at three real-world examples.
The Success: Dropbox
Cloud storage in general has seen wide adoption since its inception, with 60 percent of businesses utilizing cloud for IT-related operation. It also became very popular with consumers, who rely on digital storage for all personal photos and videos. File-sharing service Dropbox successfully capitalized on this trend – so much so that it has become a common, if not essential, workplace and personal tool with over 400 million users worldwide. Early on, Dropbox recognized the need for a simple, seamless user experience that could function from a micro (cross-office or home) to macro (cross-company) level. As a result, the team leveraged cloud technology by making it easy to access files from any location by providing a common experience for each user. Digital file-sharing, which was a significantly more fragmented landscape three to five years ago, has now become a crucial aspect of both businesses and everyday life around the world thanks to Dropbox.
The Progress: Mopria
Though mobile use in the workforce is a common trend, printing from mobile devices is still not a standardized practice. In fact, only 56 percent of users are satisfied with current mobile print options.
In addition, a recent IDC report found that 75 percent of users say the business value for mobile printing is similar to PC printing, with another 15 percent saying it’s actually greater. That’s where Mopria comes in. Mopria, a global not-for-profit membership organization, is striving to create a universal mobile printing standard to improve the efficiency of this everyday task, no matter the brand of printer that an employee may encounter at work, at home or while traveling for business. The alliance currently has 20 members, including printer and device brands and manufacturers who are looking to create a seamless, consistent mobile printing experience for consumers. Mopria has already released a plug-in for Android users and is leveraging preloads on mobile devices to evolve the mobile printing experience.
The Problem: Group Messaging
Group messaging platforms, from Skype to Slack, have seen wide adoption in the workforce. Slack, for instance, has one million daily users, up from 100,000 in 2014. However, these platforms are very particular to a certain office or even group, limiting their usefulness. The Atlantic notes that when they first started using Slack in 2014, it was only among the tech group and not office-wide. In another instance, Vice’s Motherboard publication, which was using the group messaging platform in their newsroom, decided to halt usage in May, citing its distracting nature among other widely available communications tools such as email and instant message. Though these group messaging tools are aimed at making communications more efficient, they can often negatively impact productivity – either through their limited reach or their inefficiencies.
It’s time for a greater standardization of workforce tools so our workplace technology can stack up to the digital world in which we live. Overall labor productivity has grown only 1-2 percent per year since the tech boom began, creating a real need for further standardization of enterprise solutions to streamline workforce collaboration and boost workplace efficiency. It is not enough to offer employees a new, flashy service that does not integrate into their existing workflow. It is instead necessary to provide technology that enhances the workplace experience and improves productivity to bring us out of the Madison Avenue days and into 2016.