Ask these three questions before adopting another productivity tool

It is very common, both at the personal level and at the organizational level, to adopt new tools in the hopes they'll help us be more productive. What most fail to fully appreciate, however, is the context for using the tool in the first place. For example, while we could argue that spreadsheets are useful for performing mathematical calculations and making lists, their true usefulness lies in their ability to help us record, analyze and communicate information.

Many companies introduce new technology to their staff and provide base-level functional training, which tends to focus the individual features of the product rather than on the context of the tool and its applicability to an individual's or a team's workflows. So, before you consider onboarding yet another productivity app, determine the answers the below three questions first:

  1. What are the problems the software is expected to solve? If your organization or team's activities are mostly project-based, you may determine that you need a tool that easily tracks people's time against the project.
  2. How do we accomplish tasks today? Continuing with the the example above, you could ask, "how do we currently track project time?” Once you understand the current process from a team or interdepartmental workflow perspective, you can use this insight to plan how the new tool will be used to mirror the process or, ideally, enhance it.
  3. How will this new tool support or enhance the existing process? If possible, test the tool and the new process with a small group of users to determine not only if it works well, but do people actually like using it? Often, even after useful tools are fully adopted, they don't end up being used very much.

There is no question that technology can improve staff productivity. But when investing your own or your company resources into technology tools, remember that tools alone often don't solve a problem or address a business need on their own.