Proper IT selection matters for attracting and retaining good staff

Information technology permeates almost every facet of government agencies today and the tools that are deployed have a significant impact on the people who use them, writes CHRISTIAN LUCARELLI.

Christian Lucarelli

Whether it’s a desktop productivity suite or a cloud-based data store, different tools have different characteristics that are likely to be loved (or loathed) by staff. If they’re forced to work with tools that frustrate rather than empower, it’s likely to lead to reduced productivity and even resignations.

This is a point worth remembering, because many public sector agencies leave the selection of technology applications and services in the hands of the IT department. Far fewer take the time to consult with users to determine what will suit their needs best.

A failure to consult staff can have a big impact on day-to-day department operations. According to industry research, many office workers spend around 30 per cent of their day searching for information. A recent Nintex survey found that almost half (49 per cent) of staff struggle to locate documents. The results show 43 per cent struggle with document approval requests and document sharing and 33 per cent have trouble with document versioning.

Lack of integration equals frustrated staff

The best way to improve this situation is to move away from deploying point solutions that are used for discrete tasks. A lack of integration between such applications and services is what leads to poor productivity and frustrated staff. Instead, public sector departments should create a unified technology platform that streamlines workflows and improves staff morale.

To ensure your organisation chooses technology that is the best match for users, there are three important steps to follow:

Consult with senior managers

While the goal is to have technology in place that meets the needs of all employees, not all applications or services will be relevant to everyone. Before selecting new tools, take time to meet with senior managers across the department to develop ranked lists of goals and priorities. This makes it much easier to identify IT solutions that will tick the most boxes for the most people.

Also, remember that the selected technologies won’t be equally spread across all departments or remain static over time. Budgets can be allocated to the most pressing issues first and, once they are solved, can be shifted to other areas.

Identify tasks that can be automated

While increasing numbers of workers are becoming concerned that robots and automation may soon be taking their jobs away from them, this doesn’t actually appear to be the case. According to business consulting firm McKinsey, fewer than 5 per cent of jobs can be entirely automated using current technology, while about 60 per cent could have 30 per cent or more of their activities automated.

So instead of being replaced by machines, many workers will find their roles are actually enhanced by new technologies. Artificial intelligence tools will be able to take over repetitive, process-driven tasks such as retrieving information, scheduling and filling in forms.

This gradual shift is called robotic process automation (RPA) and involves the elimination of manual tasks involving structured data by creating a bot that eliminates the need for a person to complete them. RPA effectively augments human processes and tackles functions that don’t require human reasoning.

So, instead of spending their days copy-pasting spreadsheets, workers can focus on tasks that require emotional intelligence. This, in turn, can result in deeper customer insights and improved customer service.

Selecting the most appropriate components for your ‘tech stack’

Creating the most effective technology infrastructure (or tech stack) for your organisation can be challenging, thanks to the wide range of options available on the market.

One approach is to create an internal ‘centre of excellence’ in which new tools can be evaluated and compared. This also provides an opportunity to see how new additions can be effectively integrated with existing applications and services.

It’s also worth giving staff a voice in this evaluation process. It’s highly likely that many will have worked for other government departments and will know what worked best for them there. That experience can provide a fresh perspective on what works, and what doesn’t, in other workplaces.

Taking these steps and ensuring the most appropriate and effective technologies are selected for your organisation will have a significant and positive impact on employees. Rather than having daily battles with tools and processes that frustrate them, they’ll be in a much better position to be productive and satisfied with their work.

*Christian Lucarelli is Vice President of Sales APAC at Nintex

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