March 28, 2017 | InBrief

Technology is the great multitasking enabler. Is that a good thing?

Technology is the great multitasking enabler. Is that a good thing?

These days it seems rare that we can give a single task our undivided attention. Whether we’re firing off last-minute emails during a meeting or sending IMs while on a call, multitasking has become a workplace norm. While many of us take pride in our ability to juggle many activities at once, research shows that multitasking is virtually impossible and leads to a decrease in productivity.

Technology has become the greatest multitasking enabler. Instant access to information and forms of communication enables us to quickly switch from one task to the next. It also allows us to become easily distracted. In an increasingly digitized world, how do we challenge ourselves to use technology in the workplace to make our lives more efficient, instead of creating another source of distraction?

This is the same question utility executives are asking when applying new technology to their business. Right now, utilities are taking big steps toward modernization: For example, smart grid deployments across the country are increasing grid reliability and energy efficiency and reducing utility operating costs. While the smart grid introduces many benefits, modernization also introduces new challenges. Many utilities are grappling with how to appropriately use the technology to securely manage and gather insights from generated data.

As a result, MarketsandMarkets reports the utility analytics market is estimated to nearly double in the next five years from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion. Our workforce is going to be faced with adapting operations to a more digitized environment and relying on technology to translate data to insights that will deliver more efficient project execution and operations. The key is learning how to do this right without causing distraction.

As organizations seek to improve business operations strategically through analytics-driven insights, they should assess tactical opportunities that ensure the technology is used efficiently. Certain project management techniques can help improve efficiencies. For example, many Japan-based companies, including Toyota, have adopted the “obeya” approach as a project management best practice. Obeya involves all project team members working in a single “war room” to keep the team focused on the current critical path, and help improve the speed of decision-making and flow of communication.

Another way to encourage analytics-driven decision-making is to design visual dashboards as an alternative to detailed status reports, ensuring the most important information is quickly communicated. Teams should also consider the most effective ways to leverage the data or technology at their fingertips. Are there opportunities to improve root cause analyses? Can information be shared on a web-based project management system with the entire project team simultaneously? Organizations must critically evaluate how to evolve project management and technology-driven enhancements to enhance the execution of projects and operations in our businesses.

Regardless of the project or industry, I challenge each of us to be mindful of how we use technology, and seek to employ it as a means of improving our decisions and increasing efficiency—not becoming a distraction.

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