Are You Staffing for Failure?

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 01-26-2014
Man, question mark, arrows, indecision

By Samuel Greengard

Once upon a time, we were told a wonderful tale about technology simplifying work. It makes sense because a word processor is far more efficient than a typewriter and a Website is much simpler and faster than managing millions of pieces of paper. However, the reality is that today's technology simply creates different types of work, and the sum of devices and systems rewires the enterprise and fundamentally remaps the nature of work. In fact, they introduce complexities that no one could have envisioned a few decades ago.

The result? Amped-up stress as one worker is told to do the work of two, three or five people a few years ago. Worse, it's nearly impossible to escape the tractor beam of unpaid overtime, and vacation days go unused and unclaimed at record rates. Of course, those workers who take vacations are typically wired in at every moment. Global cellular plans ensure that a person can be reached in Cartagena or Kathmandu at any time. Cloud apps guarantee that any and all data will be available at any and all times.

What's bothersome is that all this frenetic motion doesn't necessarily equal tangible results. According to study conducted by AtTask, which specializes in enterprise work management solutions, 38 percent of employees say the tasks they perform relate to overall company strategy no more than half the time. Forty-three percent find themselves juggling multiple tasks and say the company changes priorities at least once a week, if not every day. Meanwhile, 35 percent of these workers report that projects are delivered late because there are too many interruptions in the office.

The sad reality is that many organizations are out of sync and out of touch with IT resources and tools. Teams misuse or underuse sophisticated collaboration tools, HR and hiring managers leave critical positions unfilled or hire reactively, and managers consistently overestimate the power of technology to solve problems. With razor-thin staffing levels, it's no wonder that projects collapse, deadlines get blown, products are mediocre and customer service stinks. Meanwhile, worker burnout is on the rise. And this feeds the tornado.

Although there's no easy route to the digital enterprise, a starting point for CEOs, CIOs and other executives is to recognize that information technology doesn't merely replace people. Getting rid of old and unnecessary positions is the easy part. Identifying entirely new positions, plugging them into the organization and introducing the right balance of staffing, technology and processes is the difference between racing forward and breathing the digital exhaust of smarter and more efficient competitors.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post ("Ask Your Customer!"), click here.