Your boss arrives at your desk and tells you that you no longer have access to Microsoft Office, then walks away and tells you to get to work.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? How would we write up that letter, put together that Powerpoint slide package, or analyze our numbers in Excel? Sure, there are knock-off word processors, open source office, and database apps, but how often would you work with one, if you know you will need to share your work with others (and yes, some of those open source do claim to be inter-operable)? The fact is, productivity software is pervasive in our everyday workflow and serves the purpose of helping us with a number of tasks that are perhaps rudimentary, repetitive and/or otherwise time-consuming. And it is the time-consuming part that is so critical – we all have only a finite amount of time and thus we all should strive to spend that precious commodity on our most high-impact activities.

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For example, some of us may remember a time when overhead projectors (OHP) were employed widely, and thus we also had to produce (by hand, or via a special printer) OHP slides to be used in conjunction and obviously in support of our presentation needs. Technology and productivity software have rendered the OHP obsolete, but more importantly, they have allowed us to spend more time on our output (impact, value, etc) and thus our personal or organizational effectiveness – getting more bang for our proverbial intellectual buck.

While the intent here is not to advocate for Microsoft, most of us would likely acknowledge that without this readily-available suite of tools, our collective productivity would take a proverbial nose-dive as we struggle with workarounds to both complete our work and provide it to others. In the high-speed, high-risk world that we have created, it is unlikely that the majority of us would naturally gravitate to implementing workarounds with other types of productivity software. In short, our collective need for these productivity tools has willed them into existence, and the commercial market has filled the niche to sell, maintain and improve them.

Turn the argument around . . .

So, we acknowledge the power of having this kind of toolset available to us and the (scary) impact of its loss on us. What else might be out there that if it was provided with a level of ubiquity as MSOffice, would also have a profound effect on our productivity? And it would not even have to be on the same level of scope as MSOffice, but perhaps something applicable to a section of Knowledge Workers or potentially Highly-Qualified People (HQP). Up to now, these individuals have been trying to design, develop, build and deliver complex systems via a hodge-podge of disparate tools, let’s call them engineering tools, some commercial, some internally-developed, some mash-ups of the two. If we could imagine that there might be some type of toolset out there that could be readily-leveraged by this group, how might that affect their productivity? The level of R&D in Canada?

“What else might be out there that if it was provided with a level of ubiquity as MSOffice, would also have a profound effect on our productivity?”

The fact is, the government would laugh at a proposal to develop a competing tool suite like MSOffice since it obviously already exists and is widely-used.  Our financial and intellectual capital would surely be better applied to answering more of the hard problems of today, versus technologically re-inventing the wheel. Our leaders and managers need to expand the scope of innovation to consider the potential organizational effectiveness return on investment (ROI) that could be realized by applying productivity software principles to other aspects of our knowledge workers’ workflow needs.

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