Technology and Productivity
Why arts companies need to embrace technology
WORDS: SAMUEL FRY DATE: 29 OCTOBER 2013
O2 Business released a report last week that demonstrated the impact of technology on productivity at work. Do arts companies have further opportunities to embrace technology? Samuel Fry considers these findings.
On 22 October 2013, O2 Business and the Centre for Economics and Business produced a report on the link between technology and productivity in the workplace. The report, called “O2 Individual Productivity Index: How ICT technology drives the UK office economy”, illustrates how the rapid adoption of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) has transformed the office workplace.
We do not normally cover stories that relate to technology in offices on Create Hub; however, the findings of this report points towards some useful insights for the arts too.
The report has a number of interesting findings. Firstly, on a fundamental level, it found that office-based sectors have become increasingly important to the UK economy since the 1970s. Office-based sectors now represent 43% of the UK’s Gross Value Added (GVA) – up from 24% in 1972. Now, approximately 30% of the UK workforce works in office-based sectors. Secondly, the report finds that ICT accounts for a larger proportion of labour productivity. This was just 3% in the 1970s then rose to 9.8% in the 2000s and was an estimated 11.6% in 2012. Finally, to put a figure on the impact of technology, ICT now contributes £2.97 in labour productivity for every hour worked.
So, how does this relate to the arts? Well, I feel that arts companies need to look at trends like this in order to see the value in adopting innovative technologies in their own businesses.
Ben Dowd, O2 Business Director, said: “The findings from our report show how the increasing use and investment in technology by UK businesses has allowed us to work smarter, and as a result we are more productive. For example, employees can now work anywhere they need to – whether that is in the office, from home or even on the move. They can easily access and edit documents on smart devices, and use connectivity like 4G and wifi to stay in touch wherever they are. This flexibility enables us to get more done during the working day than ever before, so businesses can focus on maintaining growth.”
While Richard Donkin, author of The History of Work, actually makes a useful observation about our feelings towards technology at work. He explains that: “Many office workers will be surprised to find they are more productive today than they used to be. You don’t feel productive when chatting around the water cooler with colleagues or when nipping out to the shops on an errand. But you may field two or three calls on your mobile phone during the errand; you might deal with half a dozen emails on your way in to work. The difference today is that we live in an “always on” society where lines between work and leisure have become blurred by communications technology.”
The kind of work being discussed in this report are fairly standard ones, such as: accounting, legal advice, marketing, financial services, IT support and administration. However, if technology has enabled companies to improve their everyday activities, then surely it can help them in other ways as well. For instance, if arts companies are willing to take to risk with technology, it should be able to help them to connect with audiences and customers too.
Technology can build on relationship with audiences. It can help companies engage with audiences in a number of ways, both within a performance and as a way to stay in contact with them afterwards. I feel that the trends found in the O2 Individual Productivity Index, although expected, clearly demonstrate that technology should be embraced, not feared, when it comes to the arts.
How do you see technology effecting business in the future? Do arts companies have opportunities? Join in the debate by tweeting me @samueljfry #ArtTech