There is the way software works and the way it is used


I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to groups week in and week out. Sometime 3, 4, and 5 times in a week. Even though I talk about the same topic every time, I find myself delivering the message in different way. I don’t know if that’s because I am getting bored of the topic, or if I am afraid that the people that I talk with will get bored (it’s probably me – because when I talk with a group they are usually hearing it for the first time). One of my most recent catch phrases is that, “there is the way the software works, and then there is the way the software is used”. The phrase came about from one of my long sessions of thinking (to my co-workers it looks more like day dreaming or sleeping at my desk, but it’s thinking…really). I was thinking about ERP software and frequently when talking with an organization that has spent a lot of time, money and effort on an ERP system only to use a certain percentage of it’s capability. I am always struck that the percentage can be as little as 50%. That means that half of the functionality is just sitting there doing nothing. This must be frustrating to the administrators of the software, but it’s probably unused because there is either there no use for the other fifty, or no one has figured out how to deploy it.

Well, I had a thought, thanks to my thinking time.  What if when software was evaluated it was evaluated based upon how the software is typically used, rather than based upon what the software can do? Now, I have been known for coming up with crazy ideas before, and as a young person I would just blurt them out in a meeting or with a colleague, and I would get some kind of, “please be quite” or “well… that’s Chris just being Chris”. I don’t think this is one of those moments.

I wrote, “The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire” to attack  issues, like functionality vs. use. One of the best ways to find this information from a service provider is through references. In the book I give tips on obtaining both types of references (did you know there were two?) (1) The Reference (I should have come up with a much snappier name for this), that is the name of a user the service provider will give you, and guess what? It will be glowing. Instead of not making the call, my suggestion is to make the call and ask specific questions. Ask, “How many reference calls do you do for the service provider?”, “Are you compensated in any way to do these reference calls?” The opportunity here is to find out what the culture of the service provider by way of these staged reference calls. (2) The second type of call is The Real Reference. The real reference is when you know someone who knows someone who uses the service provider you are considering. When you find that person, or people, make sure they don’t hate technology, so you can get a read on the service provider and not the fact that the person thinks that paper ledgers were awesome. When you have these people on the phone ask your typical reference questions like, “How is the service and support, are things done on time and budget…?”

As I spend more time thinking (really, that’s what I do in my office…co-workers) I am going to write more about this topic to help folks find the difference between how the software works and how the software is used.

Buy the book – The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire – click here to buy

(Also) To get your copy of The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation – click here to buy

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