When Microsoft announced Windows Update for Business in May, it promised the new approach to upgrades would help businesses reduce management costs, provide controls over update deployment, offer quicker access to security updates, and provide access to the latest innovations from the company on an ongoing basis.
Generally, what goes for Microsoft goes for all big providers, so it’s likely the software-as-a-service model will soon become an industry-wide phenomenon.
What does this new approach mean for CIOs in terms of supporting users and protecting company productivity?
A continuous approach
Previously, a new version of software was an event a CIO could plan around. The business case made by CIOs and by software companies was more around the imperative to upgrade the technology rather than around new business benefits.
But with the potential end of big, sweeping technology migrations (that typically came with significant employee training on the business end), what will companies do when Microsoft (or other providers) come out with an upgrade that affects how employees do their work?
If an update changes a basic employee tool, will companies have the infrastructure in place to deal with a workforce that doesn’t know how to use the technology critical to doing business?
“The new approach to updates is definitely changing some of the previous sequences and cadence inside IT,” said Nick Wilkinson, CEO of Vitalyst, a provider of employee software coaching and information technology services. “Rather than a big upgrade every 3-4 years and a day or two of training for employees, training must become a continuous process.”
The incremental approach means CIOs must put extra thought into protecting company productivity, must implement new approaches to training, and must employ a model that puts a greater focus on the end-user.
Studies indicate that while computing power and investment in technology is increasing, end-user productivity is falling behind.
Wilkinson offered a number of tips for CIOs to help them improve workers’ awareness, access and mastery of computer applications and skills in order to support productivity in the new software-as-a-service environment.
Gain a basic understanding of what you have
Workers generally only use a small fraction of the technology available to them, relying on basic-level approaches that fail to keep pace with new solutions and efficiencies. But even the smallest efforts to track, monitor and improve usage delivers powerful increases in worker and enterprise productivity, said Wilkinson.
“We’ve seen significant productivity gains just by making sure companies know what they have and what those tools are capable of,” said Wilkinson.
Ensure availability of support
Because of the incrementalism of the functionality, users now have to be supported constantly in order to enable productivity for the company. Good support means more than just an IT help desk. It means giving employees access to people or digital assets that help them when they get stuck.
“The most successful CIOs we see are the ones that are taking an enlightened approach to helping employees be productive and proficient using their tech tools,” said Wilkinson. “Problems or frustrations with applications create productivity gaps, and worse, create disruptions and aversion to adoption of new approaches.”
By addressing and resolving problems in the moment in a way that’s customized to personal learning styles, disruption is minimized, efficiency is increased and worker engagement is maximized.
Supply continuous training
Measure employee productivity to make sure they are proficient with the tools they need to be productive and effective. Most businesses fail to recognize that as computing power increases, employee skills must be continuously developed, said Wilkinson.
Companies will often introduce a one-time technology or application rollout without sufficient training back-ups or skill-building seminars. By creating a systematized skill-building approach that balances worker proficiency with business goals, end-user productivity keeps pace with technology advancements.
Finally, Wilkinson suggests CIOs strive to take a user-centric approach rather than a technology-focused approach in all that they do.
“Only when worker usage and proficiency meet key thresholds can IT leaders achieve the next level of technology innovation,” he said. “A clarified view of individual and enterprise productivity creates a more effective framework for driving business forward.”