Useful vs. Superfluous Tech In The Workplace

You ever know anyone who hates change? I do. Not only do they do this in their personal life, but in there professional life as well. Technology has transformed so many aspects of business that it’s difficult to recall business before the advent of the internet.

Although it’s difficult to recall the state of computing before the internet, some people can still remember what it was like to use the three-and-a-half- inch, five-and-quarter inch, or even a Commodore 64 complete with Dot Matrix printer!

However, despite its impact on business in general, not all tech has its place in a company. At first glance, it might appear that all tech used in a workplace would be necessary, but this isn’t really true. Although there is some tech that we absolutely can’t do without, we also have other tech that might be unnecessary. How do we tell the difference?

 

What Makes Tech Necessary and Useful?

The best way to define useful tech is by simply looking at how it helps the company. For many companies having a hosted VoIP provider is indispensable for their business growth. I remember when my job made the switch from traditional land lines. It allows more integrations with our tech. And of course an IT department should be using IT to the fullest. It also allows employees to take their numbers wherever they go, which is useful for those on the go.

VoiP technology is considered necessary and useful because it drives immediate business benefits and promises a pattern of continued success. In addition, it is tech that fits in with our values. For instance, we value efficiency over tedious processes and cost efficacy over high prices.

Other useful tech in the workplace are obviously things like computers, printers, monitors, and smartphones.

 

What Makes Tech Unnecessary and Superfluous?

One would assume that any tech introduced into the workplace would be there because it serves a purpose. After all, a network administrator is highly unlikely to add the World of Warcraft onto a server just to make sure employees have some entertainment available when business is slow. Although, I do remember a time when my coworkers and I used to get together for a LAN party. It’s always nice to blow off some steam!

So what makes tech unnecessary if business managers are vigilant about not adding any hardware or software that does not facilitate work?

This is actually a tricky question—because any technology introduced into an office setting could be rendered useless. What makes it useless has little to do with the tech itself and much to do with employees’ perception of it.

When new tech is introduced into a workplace, it is often done with a lot of forethought and good intentions. The tech is viewed by managers as a solution. It is perceived as a way to save time and money and increase efficiency and output. However, managers are often taken by surprise when employees who love being on their iPhone and playing with their iPad whenever they are in the break room suddenly appear conservative and technophobic about the brand new tech system they have to use at their computers.

Technology is always changing. I know people personally and professionally that do not accept tech change well. They know just enough to use the tech, but the smallest change can give them anxiety.  Resistance to this new tech can come in many forms. In its mildest form, it might consist of frequent complaints. They say that nothing is worker right. They call the help desk just about every day. At its most severe form, it might consist of the formation of pressure groups to go back to the old way of doing things. Often resistance is passive-aggressive: for instance, not using the new tools, resorting to using previous methods to do the work, or using unauthorized software to do the work without the new tech.

As a result of employees fighting the new tech, the technology becomes superfluous. The investment is wasted because it is used inconsistently, and instead of increasing efficiency, it lowers performance and productivity since several people may be doing the same thing in different ways.

Superfluous tech, then, has the following three characteristics:

  1. It is so advanced that users have no idea how to use it. Often managers try to counter this with formal training classes, but users still might not comprehend how to use it.
  2. It appears to employees to take longer to do the work well compared to how it used to be done before. It is poorly designed and fails to provide a better employee experience.
  3. It fails to impress users with its functionality, even after they have reluctantly learned how to use it.

Understanding the difference between useful and useless technology is not all about the technology itself. Often it is about how easily people are able to adapt to it to fully use its benefits. After all, tech is useless if no one is using it.

Kris McDonald is Chicago mom to 2 sets of twins, photography nut, gadget addict, travel addict, and tech blogger who has worked in IT for over 16 years. Kris figured out a while ago that she was destined to be really busy (hence the 2 sets of twins), and she has found peace with that. Read More