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Microsoft Nudges You Towards Productivity

by Craig Roth  |  July 17, 2018  |  Comments Off on Microsoft Nudges You Towards Productivity

Microsoft announced Workplace Analytics solutions and MyAnalytics nudges on Thursday to “put individuals and teams at the center of change.” Briefly, Workplace Analytics takes usage data from O365 to aggregate group stats and track the results of change management efforts. MyAnalytics (part of O365 Enterprise E5, an extra fee on some other plans) is more personal, helping you apply self-discipline about general information worker issues like meetings, email, and time management. Can this kind of technology drive much-needed positive change in workers motivated to improve their productivity and decrease stress?

Yes, it can certainly help. Workers that mostly do nonroutine tasks using general purpose tools (like email, spreadsheets, file syncing) have developed some bad habits over the years that sap their productivity as well as that of those around them. And the resulting info-stress piles up faster than their inboxes. A healthy dose of awareness and self-discipline can have immediate and sometimes long-lasting effects, just like it can with a healthy diet.

But being healthy is more important than being thin. Likewise, having healthy communications is more important than having less of them, whether they are emails or meetings or interruptions. As I wrote inIn Praise of (Good) Meetings there are good and bad meetings; good and bad emails. So it can be dangerous to take a too-equal swipe across both the good and bad of their type. And the bad has a way of oozing to other allowed channels or days anyways.

I questioned an information overload extremist about this complication – cutting into meat when trying to trim fat – many years ago and his answer was “there is so much inefficiency I’m not worried about cutting into the meat”. I think that’s a standard but misguided attitude, particularly towards email. When the meat is a very small portion of what is out there, taking a cleaver to it is likely to not hit it. But if you take more than one swipe or the ratio of meat is higher, a more surgical approach is necessary.

In an ideal future I want AI to tell me which meetings and emails are unnecessary, not just give me a total count. Recall that’s the first thing Scarlett Johansson’s “OS” did for the hero in “Her” to prove her value (see Tech Movie Review here).

Until I have that OS, a simple, non-technical approach would be having all participants do a quick (and confidential) 1-5 rating on the usefulness of meetings at the end. Then, using analytics, track average meeting quality (for those attended by an individual, for all meetings in the department, for all meetings of a certain type, etc). That is more closely tied to value than the raw number of them. And it would encourage participants to both increase the quality of meetings or stop attending ones that don’t meet their needs to improve their score (although that gets into the issue of avoiding ego-centric evaluations of usefulness of meetings).

So quantity metrics are important and tying the metrics to high-level performance outcomes, like sales or performance reviews, provides even more insight. But giving me my time back only helps if I can do something better with it. I want some enterprise attention management that can help me make decisions about which meetings, emails, information, interruptions to spend my time on and which to block. Until then, I’ll keep looking for ways to keep my email and calendar “healthy” rather than thin.

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Category: attention-management  communication  digital-workplace  microsoft-office  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

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