How to Avoid Killing Your Software Users

How to Avoid Killing Your Software Users

Picture this:

You’re sitting in the fixed assets manager’s office. The company is a manufacturer with a large number of fixed assets scattered over several states. You’re explaining how the new, integrated, enterprise software application will provide more robust functionality that your boss and the manager’s boss have agreed that the company needs. Your explanation is finished and the manager asks a question.

“Will this new-fangled software print a 4460 form as a PDF?”

“Not today, however, you have access to a report that provides all the data necessary for your accountant to complete the form. A PDF print out for this form has been requested and is on an enhancement list,” you respond.

“That’s unacceptable!” says the fixed assets manager. He continues, “Our $500 fixed assets software package that we purchased fifteen years ago produces that PDF!”

You’re stumped. What can you do? If your first thought involves stirring hemlock into the manager’s morning coffee, reconsider that fantasy!

Stories of user resistance to new software have been around since organizations began buying it. The motivations behind resistance are varied. Sometimes it’s about needing to learn new skills or new ways of doing business. Additional motivations may include concerns about layoffs resulting from the new software.

Whatever the motivation for your user’s resistance may be, it’s important that you discover what it is. Once you understand the reasons behind a user’s reluctance, it’s possible to address those concerns and help your software user through the transition process.

In the situation above, the person who used the old software package to print the PDF of the form was a clerk, not an accountant. The clerk printed this form and mailed it to the appropriate regulatory agency. The manager’s real concern was that the people in his department didn’t have the required skills or education to be competent with the new enterprise software.

Enterprise software often creates a situation of “upskilling” activities due to its ability to automate data flows and business processes. When this occurs suddenly employees who have functioned as clerks or “button pushers” are expected to exercise judgment and analyze the data output in front of them.

Simply to offer application training to employees whose tasks are being “upskilled” due to new enterprise software will only exacerbate their concerns. What they need is education, in addition to training on the software, or encouragement to apply for different positions within the organization.

Some organizations have recognized the need for providing education or redeployment for employees whose positions have been “upskilled” and have benefitted substantially from their programs. More organizations have (historically) turned a blind eye to this predicament. As a result, they have:

  • “Workarounds” that are disconnected from the new system
  • Broken business processes, as well as little to no data governance
  • Multiple versions of financial and/or operational “truth”

Since these problems can, and often do, arise from an unwillingness on the part of organizations to educate and train (or in the alternative redeploy) employees so that they might be successful for their employer, I need to ask, “Is this a cost effective approach to implementing or upgrading enterprise software applications?”

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