Knowledge workers hold key to survival

Email is the thief of time, and software must do better at boosting the productivity of knowledge workers, says Gartner

Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers is key to survival, and only limited progress has been made in addressing the problem, according to analyst firm Gartner Group. Speaking on Monday at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cannes, Gartner analyst Andy Kyte said: "We have had 30 years of making the typewriter go faster, of producing a set of orders electronically, of producing the invoices electronically -- of making the post go faster... now all this will win you is competitive parity." Kyte said there is even evidence that some IT technology is positively working against the productivity of knowledge workers -- citing the "evil" of email as the single greatest thief of a knowledge worker's time. The priority of IT investment in the future must be to boost the productivity of knowledge workers -- an employee whose wider knowledge about their area, as well as their skills in actually doing their job, is valuable to their company -- he said, adding that this is particularly important for the developed world as it struggles to cope with the competitive pressures of globalisation. Boosting the productivity of knowledge workers is a survival strategy for the developed world according to Kyte, as the high-wage economies of Europe and America struggle to compete against the emerging economies such as India and China. Ultimately all companies and all chief executives are competing for capital, Kyte said. Unless firms can convince shareholders and investors that a good return can be provided by investing in your company, then capital investment will go elsewhere -- to the firm that can deliver the growth. However, Andy Kyte does not believe it is necessary to be at the bleeding edge of investment in knowledge worker productivity. "Fast followers" can also be successful, he said --- but there is now less time for them to follow. The previous wisdom that companies could let the competition pioneer new areas and then follow them at leisure may no longer be a profitable strategy. As the time to market for new products reduces and product life cycles shrink only the "fast followers" are likely to win with this approach, said Kyte.

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