Ever heard of the “new system blues”? It’s when a freshly installed business software system turns out to be a flop – cumbersome to users and threatening productivity, despite the truckloads of money it cost. If this doesn’t ring a bell to you, your business is probably running on custom software. If it sounds all too familiar, read on to find out how custom software development can help you avoid this scenario.
It’s Not the System, It’s the Execution
Only recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Avon would halt the rollout of a $125 million order-management system because the sales reps found it such a pain in the neck, they chose to flee instead. Similarly, problems implementing SAP systems curbed the profits of US corporation Lumber Liquidators and tech firm Ingram Micro in previous years. Whether the software’s end users are independent representatives and as such, quite volatile, as in the case of Avon, or full-time employees who are less likely to quit because of a software issue, as in the latter two cases, it turns out, a not user-friendly business solution is not really a solution at all. There are countless examples of organizations, large or small, weighed down by ill-conceived systems and processes. However, according to business consultant Les McKeown, in the majority of the cases, it’s not the system itself at fault, rather, how it’s implemented.
How Business Software Systems Get Out of Hand
Dreaming up a system is not the same as dealing with it. More often than not, these complex business software solutions are conceived – internally, or partnering with suppliers like SAP – by professionals who think in the framework of systems and processes, quite removed from everyday functions or priorities. Because of this mindset, the result tends to be extremely specified, with features and options for every possible function – most of which will never be used. Only at this point do the end users get their hands on the software – usually after weeks of tedious training to come to grips with all those features. They are typically pragmatic, no-nonsense people who regard a business software system as a tool to get work done. And the thing about tools is: the simpler the better. Inevitably, users will feel overburdened and irritated by all the bells and whistles that are supposed to make their lives easier but do the opposite. And while they struggle with the software, the management will grapple with the numbers, trying to justify spending a fortune on a system that fails to produce the expected ROI. A classic lose-lose.
Develop Software With End Users in Mind
The antidote to the “new system blues” is quite simple: involve the eventual end users throughout the whole process, McKeown suggests. If you’re considering a new order management system, for instance, make sure to consult people doing daily operations in your sales, logistics and finance departments – even before you start to draft ideas. And keep relying on their insights and feedback until the system is up and running. And even after that. However, there’s only so much optimization you can achieve with “prefab” software solutions, even by vetting process concepts against real-world priorities. Better still to opt for custom software development, as it allows maximum flexibility in adjusting features and structure precisely to your business operations, relying on input from all relevant parties. The result is a lean and agile system that delivers what your co-workers need – and nothing else.