Microsoft Steps Back from the Productivity Score Cliff

Posted on December 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365 with 13 Comments

Last week, Microsoft 365’s Productivity Score functionality came under fire from privacy advocates who warned that the feature could be used to fire employees. So Microsoft a bit of credit for stepping back from that particular cliff pretty quickly and making some major changes.

“Over the last week, there’s been a lot of conversation about Microsoft Productivity Score, a tool that helps organizations measure and manage the adoption of Microsoft 365,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro explains. “We’ve heard the feedback, and today we’re responding by making changes to the product to further bolster privacy for customers.”

For those unfamiliar, Microsoft Productivity Score allows administrators and managers to see which Microsoft 365 productivity products and services that users are using, and for how long. Microsoft designed the feature to “identify opportunities to improve employee productivity and satisfaction.” It’s an opt-in feature of Microsoft 365 and it works alongside other similar metrics-tracking features like Secure Score to help organizations work efficiently. But privacy advocates have called it “a nightmare” because it identifies employees by name and displays how much time they spend working.

To address these concerns, Spataro says that is making two major changes to Productivity Score.

First, it is removing user names from the product entirely. “Going forward, the communications, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork, and mobility measures in Productivity Score will only aggregate data at the organization level, providing a clear measure of organization-level adoption of key features,” he writes. “No one in the organization will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365.”

Second, Microsoft is modifying the user interface to make it clearer that Productivity Score is a measure of organizational adoption of technology and not of individual user behavior. “Productivity Score produces a score for the organization and was never designed to score individual users,” he says. “We’ll make that clearer in the user interface and improve our privacy disclosures in the product to ensure that IT admins know exactly what we do and don’t track.”

Kudos to Spataro and the team for moving quickly on this one.

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Comments (13)

13 responses to “Microsoft Steps Back from the Productivity Score Cliff”

  1. phil_adcock

    And there will of course be some business, possible small to medium sized business that had started using this to monitor and possibly even fire employee's who will be outraged that this is going away. Of course there is no way that they could create an individual organization for each person and monitor it that way. Hmm. To be clear, I'm not a business owner and have not used this feature. I'd actually be upset if this was being done to me.

  2. glenn8878

    If a whole department is under performing, it won't be hard to track down the laggards.

  3. thalter

    There are much better ways of measuring job performance. Just because you are in Outlook or Excel all day long doesn't mean you are actually getting useful work done.

    Management 101 tells you that good performance metrics should measure output (results), not input (with is what Productivity Score essentially was doing).

  4. anoldamigauser

    Sort of makes one wonder what they were thinking before.

    Perhaps step one for developers is to think how they would feel if this were turned loose on them.

  5. lefrinj

    I was actually really looking forward to the person-level feedback to see who we needed to work with more on our Teams rollout. I guess I just don't think this way, but to me, numbers of emails and Teams messages don't point to good or bad work by an individual, but they do help me understand who hasn't engaged with Teams yet and which managers I need to work with to get the most out of our systems. I hope they find a middle ground. I only looked briefly but I don't remember seeing a way to measure an individual's performance, only their volume. I've seen the largest email users, and they are definitely not the most highly performing.

  6. SvenJ

    Surprised it didn't come with a stack ranking dashboard.

  7. waethorn

    "Productivity Score is a measure of organizational adoption of technology and not of individual user behavior"

    So it's a productivity tracker for Microsoft sales consultants then. *smh*

  8. waethorn

    Funny: immediately after reading this, I go to YouTube and see this video on their home page:

    So productivity can't be tracked by Microsoft, but consumer privacy can be stepped over every second by Google.