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Microsoft Productivity Score feature comes in for criticism

by Mark Tyson on 27 November 2020, 10:11

Tags: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeptf

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In a blog post a month ago Microsoft talked about the roll out of a new feature in Microsoft 365. Microsoft Productivity Score would provide insights to "power your digital transformation," gushed the blog. The tool would present managers with data on worker content collaboration, meetings, communication, teamwork, and mobility - it was explained - as well as tracking endpoints, networking, and use of Microsoft 365 apps. With these insights from Microsoft Productivity Score managers would be able to recognise and address issues in their workforce but, importantly, Microsoft 365 CVP, Jared Spataro, firmly stated that "Productivity Score is not a work monitoring tool".

Perhaps Spataro protesteth too much? As the Microsoft Productivity Score feature has been with us for a little over a month now, managers will have started poring over their first 28-day aggregate reports concerning the productivity of the workers they supervise. WFH has perhaps made it more difficult for managers to understand what is happening across the organisation so some will be keen to check out the data.

Microsoft provides tools to anonymize user data, or even remove it, but this isn't the default option. The Guardian reports that "by default, reports also let managers drill down into data on individual employees, to find those who participate less in group chat conversations, send fewer emails, or fail to collaborate in shared documents". This sounds a bit like work monitoring.

Probably one of the strongest voices of protest in the Guardian coverage came from David Heinemeier Hansson, creator or Ruby on Rails and co-founder of the office productivity suite Basecamp. "The word dystopian is not nearly strong enough to describe the fresh hellhole Microsoft just opened up," Tweeted Hansson. "Just as the reputation of a new and better company was being built, they detonate it with the most invasive work-place surveillance scheme yet to hit mainstream."

Additionally, Dr Claudia Pagliari, a researcher into digital health and society at the University of Edinburgh, had forewarned The Guardian on the ramp up of digital surveillance due to WFH during the pandemic.

In a response by Microsoft, it was claimed that Microsoft Productivity Score is "an opt-in experience". It went on to say that the user-level data was useful in some cases "so that an IT admin can provide technical support and guidance," for example.



HEXUS Forums :: 11 Comments

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Boiled frogs anyone?
Using a program that doesn't have Microsoft in the name? Clearly you aren't being productive…
“by default, reports also let managers drill down into data on individual employees, to find those who participate less in group chat conversations, send fewer emails, or fail to collaborate in shared documents”. This sounds a bit like work monitoring.
It may sound like it… but it's not.
Most of my stuff can be done with phonecalls, physical meets and apps outside of MS, so good luck tracking all that lot.
I could also fudge and cludge my way through making it ‘look’ like I'm doing something in MS, when I'm really just messing around or waiting for a datalink report to finish generating… I'm doing such things right now, in fact, although it's more like eight reports all at once, which is why my system is tied up and why I ‘appear’ to be doing nothing productive.

Any manager even half-worth their salt would know this is merely suggestive and not conclusive evidence, so should not treat it as such.
Ttaskmaster
Any manager even half-worth their salt would know this is merely suggestive and not conclusive evidence, so should not treat it as such.

But not all managers are, and many will. When I WFH I regularly transfer things onto my local machine as it is far quicker to do so half the time than use the vpn. What this would show is a hole. Stupid software if you ask me, but there'll be enough idiots who think that's how you manage juniors to think it's a good idea. It risks getting people too paranoid to think properly about what they're doing but instead eager to appear busy - at the cost of actual productivity or detail/reasoned design.
ik9000
But not all managers are, and many will. When I WFH I regularly transfer things onto my local machine as it is far quicker to do so half the time than use the vpn. What this would show is a hole. Stupid software if you ask me, but there'll be enough idiots who think that's how you manage juniors to think it's a good idea. It risks getting people too paranoid to think properly about what they're doing but instead eager to appear busy - at the cost of actual productivity or detail/reasoned design.

Or just educate your manager.