Pinpointing productivity and the continued rise of Slack in the enterprise

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MWC At an entertaining session at Mobile World Congress earlier today, the key question arose: is technological innovation and a changing work-life balance actually making us more productive, or are the current breed of enterprise apps just another platform on which to waste time?

The answer came back overwhelmingly for the former; 65% of the audience members polled said that they were more productive now than five years ago. When it came to the most popular apps, Office came out on top with 35%, ahead of WhatsApp (21%), Slack (12%) and Skype (12%).

More of that later – but what can we assess around the productivity question? For Art King, director of enterprise services at Spidercloud Wireless, the equation was simple. “Everybody I work with is managed on goals – you spend your time however you spend your time. You have to throw away the time clock mentality…it’s a culture shift.”

“I think there’s a bit of nostalgia for how work used to get done,” noted Andy Zmolek, Android ecosystem evangelist at Google.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could put AI and machine learning on top of enterprise data? That’s the dream

In other words, pre-mobile work used to be more deliberate and hierarchical, and less scattered. Zmolek added that in his opinion companies get to a certain point before they reach the plateau and have to go all-in: “You can’t get further productivity gains until we get full digital transformation.” Despite the fear of being ‘overloaded’ with information, Isabelle Droll, director of aviation IT at TUI Group, argued there were always some possibilities to measure productivity.

While Office was always likely to come out on top for most popular app, the increasing influence of WhatsApp, as well as the continued rise of Slack, were keenly noted by the panel. Christian Reilly, CTO of workplace services at Citrix, said he was ‘mesmerised’ by Slack, and that his employer has ramped up its usage over the past 12 months. He went one step further, recalling a recent conversation. “I said Slack could be the next operating system,” he said. “People looked at me as though I’d fallen from space.”

The conversation switched to future technologies and how they could play a role. According to another audience poll, artificial intelligence (47%) was overwhelmingly the most interesting, well ahead of robotics (12%), IoT (12%), and connectivity (11%). Regular readers of this publication will note the recent moves towards AI – but as Reilly put it: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could put AI and machine learning on top of enterprise data?” he asked. “That’s the dream.”

Zmolek sounded a note of caution later on in the session. “It’s really easy to say ‘just sprinkle a little machine learning’ [on something], but it’s really hard to execute,” he said, although adding: “Once a product has been exposed to it, you can’t go back.” Yet the whistle-stop poll showed a reasonably clear path forward. “The enterprise is traditionally a reactive market – we ask customers what they want,” said Zmolek. “If customers don’t know what they want, then it becomes a huge echo chamber that doesn’t benefit anyone.” 

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