BYOD and Productivity

In a recent post about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) I wrote these words:
Ribblehead viaduct and goods train (a few weary walkers to)

The true focus of BYOD is not the D it’s the BYO. In order to accomplish what they are trying to do people are wanting to use what is familiar, what is flexible, what makes them productive and creative. The choice of device happens to be a tangible part of that, but it’s only a part.

I thought long and hard about that statement because I wanted to leave myself open to write a couple of more posts on the changing landscape of work. This is one of those posts.

One of the areas of work that is changing rapidly is the definition of productivity.


1. The quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.

2. Economics. the rate at which goods and services having exchange value are brought forth or produced.

So productivity is about goods and services, and the great thing about this definition is that anything can be defined as goods and services. But productivity is also, and just as importantly, about generation, creation, enhancement and bringing forth.

As an economic concept it’s about the ratio of outputs to inputs. In traditional manufacturing industries this definition leads to straightforward measures: the productivity of an organisation that produces widgets is measured by the number of widgets produced and the cost of producing those widgets. The productive organisation is the one that produces more widgets for a lower cost. There’s a whole industry built up around defining and measuring this kind of productivity.

In order to ensure that they are being productive, as a whole, organisations define measures of productivity within the component parts of the organisation. Some organisations push the measurement of productivity all the way down to the individual.

This is all still quite straightforward for traditional manufacturing organisations: how many door handles does Joe produce in an hour and how does that compare to Janet. But measuring productivity in a creative services organisation is far more troublesome. How do you measure the creative output of a graphic artist? How do you measure the output from a coder? If productivity is a measure of the ratio of inputs and outputs you need to be able to define them if you are going to improve them.

It’s these creative service organisation that are growing, particularly in the west. Also these are the organisations that are making the greatest use of BYO techniques. So productivity of these organisations is important and hence productivity of BYO is important.

People want to use BYO because it gives them improved productivity, but how do they know? How do you know what the best-in-class productivity approach is for an individual in a particular circumstance? How do you know if you are going to be more productive using iOS or Android? How do you know if you are going to be more productive using Evernote or OneNote?

Going further than the individual, how do you know what is the best-in-class productivity for a set of collaborative creative activities in a value chain?

Early in my career I had a manager who, for some reason I can’t remember, would write his memos in a spreadsheet (Lotus 1-2-3) on his home computer. He would bring the floppy disk in the next day and hand it to his administrator for formatting and printing. Because the formatting in the spreadsheet was so bad the Administrator would print out the raw material and retype it into her word-processor. He may have thought he was being productive by using his own tools, but his choice of tools dramatically impacted upon his Administrator’s productivity.

You might think that this is a ridiculous example in today’s world but I see many people chasing data that they can’t access because someone has processed and stored it in their choice of application and its associated repository.

I’m not advocating a return to the heavy-handed approach of one-size-fits-all that many IT organisations adopted (primarily because of an overbearing focus on cost rather than value). What I am proposing is that organisations should enable a BYO world with their eyes open to the new opportunities and new challenges that come with the change. BYO doesn’t mean a move to zero governance, it requires a move to different governance.

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