Roaring Twenties 2.0? Not So Fast

Despite reaching new heights with technology in the modern '20s, society still has not realized the initial promise of the technology revolution—to push human productivity forward.

The Roaring Twenties was marked by dramatic change and economic progress. A century later, the iconic era remains more than simply a favored party theme—it symbolizes accelerated success driven by innovation. From the invention of IBM’s 80-column punch card, which would become the standard means of driving data processing machines, to the refinement of the assembly line that would give us the Ford Model T, the unprecedented rate at which business and technology developed continues to inspire today’s CEOs.

One hundred years later, businesses find themselves on the cusp of a new era that, if navigated properly, may be defined with same fervor used to celebrate the original ’20s. Today’s business leaders have a decision to make: properly embrace change or risk getting left behind on the horse-drawn carriage.

While stories of the Roaring Twenties bring to mind the Great Gatsby and images of jazz parties, a key principle of the era was centered on efficiency across all areas of society, especially business. Progressivism in the world of business, typified by the likes of Henry Ford and Herbert Hoover, refers to the effort to reach ultimate efficiency by applying new technologies and scaling operations.

The Age of Digital Transformation

In the Roaring Twenties 2.0 we find ourselves in today, businesses are leaning into new technologies to drive workplace productivity and efficiency in order to achieve hypergrowth. Every quarter, SaaS providers benefit from this wave of digital transformation. Demand for these solutions has never been higher. Look no further than the continued growth of modern day SaaS legend Salesforce.

Since the 1920s, we’ve experienced a technology revolution that has had large-scale business impact. The digital revolution of the 21st century has pushed businesses farther than ever before. However, despite reaching new heights with technology, society has not figured out how to be more efficient. We still haven’t realized the initial promise of the technology revolution—to push human productivity forward.

As the adoption of software in the workplace accelerates, the question remains: has anything changed in the past 100 years when it comes to productivity? Why are we still, to this day, in a continued state of business progressivism—i.e. developing more technology, but still struggling to achieve the efficiency and productivity we strive for? What can corporations do to fully realize the potential of their digital transformation efforts in the current, “roaring twenties”?

The Great Depression: More Tech, Lower Productivity

The answer lies in our digital ecosystems – the disparate technology solutions and “stacks” that must work together seamlessly for businesses to realize the full value of their investments. Unfortunately, while businesses are increasing their spend on digital transformation (up to $2.3 trillion by 2023 – according to IDC) – the burden of orchestration often falls on employees who on average have to manually switch between 35 mission-critical applications more than 1,100 times a day. The result? Technology that is meant to reinvent business processes actually burns out employees, reduces productivity and ultimately fails to achieve ROI.

Take, for example, one large tech company that is rolling out a new, costly CRM system to their sales team in an effort to use data to understand current customer behavior and attract new prospects. In order for the implementation to be successful, employees must train on and transition to the new platform and immediately input information consistently and accurately to maintain data quality. When upgrades become available, the entire team has to re-learn the tech to take advantage of new benefits. To make the job even more challenging, the same sales team that’s learning the new CRM is also responsible for other applications that cover email tracking, social selling and marketing. In many cases, workers will favor outdated, manual processes over new technology—and adoption will be low at worst and inconsistent at best. 

Roaring Twenties 2.0: Realizing the Promise of Technology

Today’s business leaders are tasked with empowering a global, mobile workforce that relies on technology as a natural extension and enhancement of their skills, rather than a roadblock to their success. The two primary ways to achieve this are:

• Adoption Analytics: Rather than rolling out new tech and taking a “wait and see” approach, set metrics and KPIs for employee adoption to quickly understand how workers are responding and whether there is an impact on productivity and collaboration between teams.

• Tech-First Culture: Software is worthless if no one is using it, which means that businesses need to put employees at the heart of their digital transformation strategy. Digital transformation will stall without a commitment to training and support for all workers – from buying based on user experience (UX) and automation, to ensuring HR understands technology projects and their importance. CEOs are called to build technology usage into their culture and corporate DNA.

As we embark on the first year in the current “roaring twenties,” organizations must create a synergized digital ecosystem that provides the visibility into how technology investments are being used across their workforce. By doing this, companies can reap the benefits that come with innovation and realize the full potential of digital transformation across the workplace.

The 2020s will roar—this time with a more productive workforce and increased bottom line—only if leaders take the right steps in unlocking digital transformation across the workplace.