5 July 2018 | By Javier Diez-Aguirre Community

A business moves at the pace of its slowest part

Focusing on agility is important, but it’s about more than implementing new technology, says Ricoh’s Javier Diez-Aguirre

Data remains king in modern business – that crown is not slipping any time soon. However, agility is soaring up the business agenda and is fast becoming heir to the throne.

The big question is; when it comes to achieving agility, do employers and employees see eye to eye?

Without a doubt, they agree that the productivity gains of smart workplace technology are essential to thrive. But the two groups often disagree when it comes to actually implementing this technology. The attitudes they apparently share in theory don’t always match in practice.

New research commissioned by Ricoh Europe reveals that 93 per cent of European employees are enthusiastic about the introduction of new technology in their workplaces. But more than half (55 per cent) of decision makers complain that, when these new technologies are introduced, they are received negatively. This response discourages those business leaders from persevering.

On the face of it this seems like a contradiction. Employees say they want the latest technology, then complain when it’s introduced. There might be a simple explanation, however. Employers and employees don’t agree on what types of technology to prioritise in the workplace.

Business leaders told us they focus on practical tools such as document management and video conferencing software. They believe these will have the biggest impact on their organisation’s performance immediately. Employees on the other hand get more excited by futuristic technology such as AI assistants. This is typically through exposure to consumer technology such as smartphones and connected home devices.

Managing expectations

Employers are right to focus on the immediate ROI of new technology. But they must do more to pre-empt the expectations within their businesses. Without buy-in from those who will actually use the technology these leaders deploy, ROI will be limited. Yet progress is being made. Further research from Ricoh Europe reveals that 71 per cent of mid-sized businesses are already applying digital solutions to enable them to scale up to become big brands.

It may sound obvious but the trick is to effectively explain the impact of tools like data analytics and print services to make sure staff are trained to take full advantage of their capabilities. These steps are absolutely necessary if leaders are to improve their business’ productivity and agility.

To solve this culture clash business leaders should communicate the benefits and impact of new technologies better to their employees. They need to manage expectations and help employees understand what technologies they can expect to use in future and why they’ve been selected.

Vitally, deploying smart technology is not enough to guarantee business agility. Leaders have to look beyond the technology and encourage an open-minded culture where employees are empowered to take measured risks. Quick decision-making skills twinned with the ability to rapidly execute are also essential. It’s encouraging that Europe’s business leaders clearly recognise how investment in a digitally empowered workplace forms the foundation for profitable business agility. However, without similar investment in a culture of agility, these businesses will struggle to see an effective ROI.

To achieve this agility, companies should conduct a business-wide 360 degree review. This will reassess how different processes, culture and technology actively benefit the organisation and where changes can be made to optimise productivity and agility. Organisations have to change holistically in order to truly reap the benefits from agility, after all, a business can only move at the pace of its slowest part.

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