In a recent blog post, Gartner’s Craig Roth writes about what he calls “the secret lives of productivity tools”–that is, people employing tech workarounds (often called shadow IT) to get things done. For example, using Outlook to manage content, Excel to track projects, and PowerPoint to design flyers and other graphics.
Indeed, most people have employed a workaround at some point in their lives to get things done. It’s often the easiest solution—at least it appears to be. In his blog, Roth offers several possible reasons for employees’ preference for shadow IT workarounds:
- Simplicity: If you don’t know how to use an application, and if you either don’t have the time to learn how to use it or if your employer does not provide training for it, using a workaround may seem like the simplest choice.
- Availability: Better-suited technology may be available, but your organization views the required time and training investment as prohibitive. If your employer doesn’t provide new tools, you will stick with what you know.
- Familiarity: If you have relied on the same application or process to get your job done, changing your routine may seem counterproductive. Learning how to use a new tool takes time and patience—two things that are in short supply in today’s digital workplace.
Workarounds require resourcefulness, but as clever as they may seem, they are terribly inefficient and costly. Many organizations provide employees with a range of tools that are designed for specific types of tasks, such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and others. When employees don’t use these tools, productivity suffers and security risks increase.
Workarounds require resourcefulness, but as clever as they may seem, they are terribly inefficient and costly.
While organizations bear some of the responsibility for ensuring you know about and know how to use new technology, you also have an obligation. It’s your career, after all. Here are three things you can do to ensure you have the resources you need:
- MIND THE PERCEPTION GAP—AND WORK TO CLOSE IT. According to a recent report by PwC, 90 percent of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only 53 percent of employees say the same. Don’t assume your departmental or IT managers understand what you need to be able to use technology effectively. If you need support—such as training or coaching—ask for it.
- PROVIDE FEEDBACK—OFTEN. Feedback may have once been considered lip service, but companies pay close attention to it today. Take every opportunity to share your opinion. Provide your organization with insight about your day-to-day experience. For example, where do you work most often—in the office, at home, on the road, or with customers? What challenges do you face with the technology you currently use? What improvements would make you more productive?
- ADOPT A CONTINUAL LEARNING MINDSET. In the PwC survey, 84 percent of people say they do their work because they want to learn new things. But, the study authors point out, there’s a disconnect between the amount of time people are willing to spend on training and the frequent upskilling that will be required of them in the digital workplace. Resolve the disconnect by adopting a continual learning mindset—set aside ample time for traditional training as well as less conventional models such as microlearning, online courses, coaching, and others. Make learning a part of your regular routine, instead of an occasional diversion.
Frequent change is the norm today, and that’s the challenge for both organizations and employees. By embracing change, you improve your short-term productivity and ensure you have the skills to thrive in future.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.