Back when I was a newspaper reporter, gaining access to updated technology was a struggle.
It wasn’t until the late 2000s that we were outfitted with laptop computers so we could write and file stories without being tethered to our desks (which, it turns out, is pretty important for reporters).
At one point around 2005, we even had to share an unfortunate device called the Apple PowerBook Duo Dock whenever we had to write a story from the field. The Duo Dock—which was a neat device but at least a decade out-of-date at the time—did little to boost employee effectiveness or morale.
When we finally got much-needed reinforcements in the form of shiny new MacBooks, the results were predictable: We were empowered to produce higher-quality content more frequently and efficiently.
Outfitting your employees with the most effective technology isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessary investment that you need to make as a small business owner to keep your organization viable and competitive.
Imagine a professional baseball team that buys all their bats at the thrift store, or a NASCAR team that has its vehicles tuned up at the service shop on the corner.
They wouldn’t be competitive, just as businesses with inferior technology struggle to compete.
Effective employees need effective technology
A 2016 study by Dell and Intel found that 44% of all employees worldwide “feel that their workspace isn’t smart enough” and that 46% say tech-related issues are the “biggest time wasters at their current job.”
Even those who feel they are productive at work report they “could be doing more with the right tools.”
Your employees know when they’re using outdated technology, and if you expect them to function with a 10-year-old laptop when they have a brand new one at home, you risk losing them to the competition.
“The need to use current and emerging technologies in most jobs is accelerating rapidly,” according to Gartner research director Helen Poitevin.
If you’re trying to get by with outdated or under-powered tech to save money or avoid having to guide your organization through the change that new technology involves, all you’re really doing is putting your entire organization at a competitive disadvantage.
It’s your responsibility as a small business leader and project manager to equip your people with the technology they need to be more effective and help your business succeed today and ten years from today.
Cool tech to boost your employees’ effectiveness
In this article, we’ll take a look at some up-and-coming technology from Gartner’s Cool Vendors series. The point isn’t that you need to go out and invest in these specific solutions, but that you should be aware of what’s on the horizon so you can see the technology gaps that might be limiting the effectiveness of your employees.
This technology goes well past the capabilities of traditional project management software, leveraging new innovations to blur the lines between software categories, as you’ll see reflected in the diversity of the solutions highlighted below.
Vendors are listed in alphabetical order.
An Iterable use case by Zillow (Source)
Vendor type: Email marketing
Founded: 2013, San Francisco, California
HOW IT CAN IMPROVE EMPLOYEE EFFECTIVENESS: Iterable takes a cutting-edge approach to email marketing, using AI and algorithms to help marketers determine the best time, channel, and frequency to send the most engaging messages possible.
Iterable has “an accessible front-end interface backed by underlying sophistication and scale,” according to Gartner (full content available to clients).
This balance of ease-of-use and power allows end users to enjoy unprecedented time to value.
Iterable will empower email marketers to send the most engaging messages possible, at the most effective time, so that those employees won’t need to spend hours or days distilling that information.
WHO IT CAN HELP: B2C growth marketers, especially in entertainment, financial services, retail/digital commerce, and technology verticals, looking to gain agility and scale across multiple channels without needing heavy technical support. These employees will be able to reach larger audiences more effectively using fewer resources.
Contracts and bid submissions in Keelvar (Source)
Vendor type: Procurement
Founded: 2012, Cork, Ireland
How it can improve employee effectiveness: Keelvar uses AI to automate the sourcing and advanced sourcing optimization process, streamlining the turnaround on the sourcing process from a month and a half down to one or two days.
“Every bid sheet is databased and mapped by AI to category super-templates. This allows the solution to automate bid sheet configuration,” according to Gartner. “It also enables autopiloting the bid feedback process to the suppliers so that it is hands off until an equilibrium condition is met” (full content available to clients).
Keelvar allows any employee tasked with acquiring new resources—whether goods or services—to automate the bidding process.
WHO IT CAN HELP: Procurement managers at large enterprises who are looking to drastically reduce the turnaround time on complex sourcing categories. These employees will be able to manage the entire procurement process much more effectively, with the savings in resources trickling down through the organization.
A digital illustration of a sales meeting schedule optimized by Mapadore (Source)
Vendor type: CRM
Founded: 2016, London, United Kingdom
HOW IT CAN IMPROVE EMPLOYEE EFFECTIVENESS: Mapadore uses a proprietary algorithm called SMART PLAN to help sales reps plan an optimal route for customer visits. Through a Salesforce integration, SMART PLAN “scans the sales rep’s diary, checking for empty slots, takes the appointment locations into consideration, and calculates transfer times using metrics and hourly statistics from Google Maps,” according to Gartner (full content available to clients).
The algorithm can even go as far as to match the best available sales rep to a new lead based on the “digital social personality” of each to help boost conversion rates. In this way, Mapadore improves sales reps’ effectiveness not only by optimizing their sales routes, but also by optimizing which leads they target in the first place to rapidly accelerate the sales cycle.
WHO IT CAN HELP: Sales managers and reps in any industry that uses face-to-face sales calls, from real estate to medical sales. Mapadore also improves the effectiveness of phone sales reps with its lead matching algorithm.
An example of a network overview using MetaPort (Source)
Vendor type: Network monitoring
Founded: 2010, Coral Gables, Florida
HOW IT CAN IMPROVE EMPLOYEE EFFECTIVENESS: MetaPort autogenerates business cases to extrapolate the short-term and long-term financial impact of potential network infrastructure changes of all sizes. Gartner says that performing this type of exercise using current industry standard networking software requires heavy data entry.
“In one customer example, MetaPort’s solution highlighted that a $7.7 million investment to upgrade the network to support a new Ethernet switched access network architecture would generate $18.1 million of savings over a five-year period,” according to Gartner. “The proposed network upgrade was self-funded and enabled a simpler, more flexible network architecture to be deployed” (full content available to clients).
MetaPort improves employee effectiveness by significantly reducing the need for manual data entry and by potentially accelerating the process of upgrading to more efficient network architecture.
WHO IT CAN HELP: Network engineers tasked with monitoring network performance and efficiency and IT project managers working on projects that involve large-scale budget management and change management. Upgrading to a new network based on MetaPort’s analysis could also improve organization-wide employee effectiveness due to a faster connection.
A Seerene dashboard showing developer productivity against app complexity (Source)
Vendor type: Application development
Founded: 2015, Potsdam, Germany
HOW IT CAN IMPROVE EMPLOYEE EFFECTIVENESS: Seerene gets under the hood of an organization’s app ecosystem, analyzing an ocean of source code to gauge the productivity and quality of developer’s code.
“This tool graphically depicts which applications are the most complex and difficult to maintain, hence, utilizing the most development and maintenance resources,” according to Gartner (full content available to clients).
This enables IT project managers to match their best developers with the most complex app projects so that they can accurately allocate resources and meet deadlines. When coders are assigned to the most appropriate projects based on skill level, overall employee effectiveness is increased by reducing bottlenecks.
Seerene can also improve employee effectiveness by quickly finding code that needs to be improved so that IT project managers can efficiently manage resources and provide additional training to coders who need it.
WHO IT CAN HELP: Coders, IT project managers, and application leaders looking to manage the performance of their app development projects and identify areas for improvement in cost, quality, and risk. Seerene can also help IT project leaders optimize resource allocation.
Want more employee effectiveness innovation?
Hopefully, these cool, new vendors have given you some fresh ideas on how to improve effectiveness at your workplace. But if you’re still hungry for more innovative ideas on improving employee effectiveness, follow our project management blog for regular updates.