Business Services

To Boost Productivity, Use Technology Right: Roundtable

BOARDMAN, Ohio – As the Mahoning Valley’s workforce becomes more and more attached to technology, both in the office and out, how it’s used plays a major role in just how productive a company’s employees are.

“IT for the sake of IT is no good. There has to be some sort of end goal, some sort of problem you’re trying to solve,” said Robert Merva, owner of Avrem Technologies, Canfield. “It’s a tool, so when it’s used properly it’s hugely beneficial to any business, whether through automation, connectivity or collaboration.”

Merva was among the participants Feb. 13 in The Business Journal’s roundtable discussion on office technology and productivity. 

Among the technologies that can help businesses improve efficiency and employee productivity, participants said are document resource management systems. The software allows digital documents to move from department to department and person to person automatically through programmed pathways.

“A lot of the procedures can be done automatically instead of waiting on end-users,” said Justin White of Advanced Technology Partners, Austintown. “You can have in an invoice come in through email, be processed, assigned to the correct person and sent over for approval and then be paid all through a system with no room for an operator error and they’re notified every step of the way.”

Also gaining steam are managed services from information technology firms, which provide outsourced IT support for businesses as they grow and move into more advanced systems and software.

“We talk with the owner and department managers, figure out what their goals are, what pains they have and what problems they have,” said Tom Reeveley, owner of Team Office Technologies, Austintown. “Sometimes it’s a process problem where there are processes they need to be more efficient with. It can be computers, technology, the interconnectivity of all those things.”

Whereas an in-house IT team is often limited by size, expertise and work hours, managed service providers can monitor systems remotely, have combined decades of experience and are frequently more cost-effective than the traditional break-fix model.

“Managed services help businesses be productive by taking away the routine maintenance of their systems. A lot of our routines are automated and happen at night. We defrag machines, scan for viruses, reboot machines at certain intervals just to keep them running at maximum capacity,” said Mark Richmond, owner of Micro Doctor IT, Warren.

Not all productivity is tied directly to technology in the office. With workers, especially younger one, connected through a vast array of mobile devices, from laptops to smartphones, many observed that the traditional 9-to-5 workday is fading away.

“We can access all of our technology from anywhere. I have employees that work from home or strictly off mobile devices. The idea that you have to sit in a cubicle all day is a thing of the past,” said Jason Wurst, vice president of Tele-Solutions Inc., Boardman.

When employees are given the freedom to work how they want, he observed, productivity rose. But that doesn’t mean they should be given free reign, added Forbes Human Resources founder Joanna Forbes.

“They need to know what’s happening, what the mission is and what the expectations are,” she said. “The basic thing is consistent policies and making sure the lines of communication are open. Do employees know what’s going on in your organization? Are there things that are coming from the top that they aren’t clear about?”

The work environment can also play a role in just how much work gets done, and how efficiently. Gray cubicle walls with harsh fluorescent lights are out, open spaces with natural light and rest areas are in. Last year, Micro Doctor wrapped up renovations to its office in Warren, Richmond says, and has seen improvement in morale.

“We put in natural floors, bright walls, dimmable lights and better seating. …There’s a snack center and we have drinks on hand. We also do events every quarter where we get together as a company to do some team-building,” he said. “We made it a better environment that’s conducive to employee satisfaction.”

And, of course, management comes into the equation as well, the experts agreed. The best workers are those who are challenged by their work and passionate about the field.

“An important thing for productivity is exciting, challenging work for employees. Getting the right employees the right work and making sure they’re excited is big,” White said. “When we go through interviewing, we ask if they’re passionate about technology, are they interested in it, is it something they do in their free time.”

An edited transcript of the roundtable discussion will be published in the March issue of The Business Journal, in subscribers’ mailboxes next week. Also participating in the discussion were Youngstown State University management professor Marsha Huber, HD Davis managing member Tim Petrey and NEO3 vice president of sales Pat Cioffi.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.