Why You Should Buy Less Software

Originally posted on June 8 2011

I’m still here, do not worry.

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If your company needs to make reports, it will buy Business Intelligence software.

If your company needs to make a budget, it will buy Budget software.

If your company needs to make sales campaigns, it will buy a CRM tool.

If your company needs to make X it will likely buy X software.

 Than reports will not be particularly insightful, the budget will still be a pain, just a little lighter, and campaigns will not be particularly relevant and Xs will look like Ys etc. etc.

 Technology is often seen as an enabler, and indeed it is, yet the true meaning of this is often misunderstood. Simply adopting software does not guarantee any outcome. Better, simply adopting a new piece of software, in a business environment, with no preparation, is the sure recipe for, at best, a lukewarm, passive, acceptance.

 Why? Simple, software can’t do your work; it only can handle repetitive tasks efficiently. If you do not have a clear and complete vision of what the software must do, you will buy what appears to be the best suited, just to discover fatal flaws later. If a clear understanding of the process is in place, than the software that best mimics it can be identified and purchased.

 For example let’s consider a classic issue: budget. Where basic Excel is used, it is often a messy and painful job. Revisions are even worse. Introducing a budgeting tool with no adequate preparation will simply add more entropy. 

So, before selecting the tool, the process must be thoroughly assessed. Who is involved must be identified, together with the role. What must be planned, at which level, according to which rules, grounding on which information, is to be defined. Information cycles must be established etc.

When every tiny bit of the process is worked out, then, and only then, the best match with the process can be identified. If the number of new customers is one of the budgeting variables and the software does not allow the user to add a typical new customer, then it is the wrong tool, not the wrong process. Clearly the perfect match is hardly to be found, and compromises are often required. It is amazing, nonetheless, how often consultants (like me!) try to explain the users how to do in a complex way what should be simple, by plugging square poles in round holes.

 If I read what I wrote above it appears to be rather obvious, so, why it is not the rule? Because defining a complex process on the paper is difficult, requires a lot of abstract thinking, deep business knowledge and a good dose of diplomacy. It is easier, and human, to rely on a salvific third party that could fix everything with a snap.

This brings me to a final consideration: I know it’s difficult, but, what all those MBAs are there for?

 Have fun!