Most people have heard the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, which argues that 20% of activities generate 80% of results. But does this rule apply to the software program tools we use every day?
According to a recent study by an enterprise technology firm, on average, most users only access about 12% of software program tools daily. Those same users only moderately access another 8% of the tools on an as-needed basis. That leaves roughly 80% of technology tools that are either never used or rarely used at all.
If you’re paying for commercial software, that means you’re paying the full price but only using up to 20% of the tools available.
When considering ROI and operating expenses, that means you’re wasting money month-over-month on unused and underutilized software tools.
While there are some legitimate reasons why certain software tools would be rarely used, that doesn’t explain why commercial software vendors are investing money in developing tools that the majority of their users will probably never use. Nor does it justify their passing that expense on to users paying a monthly subscription fee.
Before we can review strategies on how to get more ROI from technology, let’s look at the six underlying problems that explain why people don’t utilize software tools:
- The software is too complicated.
- There is not enough available training.
- Software tools are not important for day-to-day operations.
- Software tools were created without end-users in mind.
- Software tools are hidden or there’s a lack of user-friendly UI.
- Software tools are only used on rare occasions that may not apply to your business.
Now that you know what’s causing some of the roadblocks limiting optimal software usage, you can start implementing the following six best practices that will help your organization get a better grip on the technology you need and that fits within both your business goals and operating expenses.
Avoid Over-Complicated Software & Business Processes
Ideally, every part of your business should be made up of processes explaining how tasks are accomplished and which software programs or subscriptions are used to accomplish said tasks. If you and your leadership team have not done so already, you should map out all processes for review. At the very least, map out business-critical processes.
After you map them out and begin to review them, ask the following questions:
- Is each of these processes the easiest way to accomplish the desired end goal?
- Is the software used for each task working efficiently for workflows, or are multiple “workarounds” included in the process?
- Do we have to use more than one software program to complete each process, and if so, why can’t one single software program fulfill what is needed?
If your processes are already overcomplicated, chances are they are not being performed consistently or efficiently regardless of what software tools are being used. You may want to start by brainstorming with team members on ways to simplify each process and workflow to optimize overall productivity.
Even for highly complex processes, there is almost always a more direct path to accomplishing your goal. Work with team members and task performers to go through these processes and workflows to examine whether each step is necessary. If not, work with the team to make the best changes possible.
Only after you examine and streamline the processes can you verify if the software tools you’re using are the best tools for the job. If you create workarounds to “bend” the software to your whims, then it’s probably not the best software for your business.
Likewise, if you’re using multiple software programs and are having to go back and forth between programs to accomplish a workflow, you’re probably not using the best tools for the job. Multiple software programs may get you answers that you need to accomplish a task, but wasting time shifting between software programs, or only getting limited answers based on the capabilities of each piece of software is not ideal for overall business growth and scalability.
Implement Consistent Training and Retraining for Learning Software Programs
Regardless of having the best software tools on the market, it doesn’t mean anything if your team members don’t know how to use them.
Lack of training and training resources is one of the most common employee-reported issues when it comes to underutilized software tools. Furthermore, frustration with software tools can add to employee stress and create a negative working environment, which further diminishes a company’s culture and can contribute to problems with retention.
To avoid these issues, it’s best not only to create team-specific training courses for new software but also to require continuous retraining. By having team-focused specific training courses, employees will learn from the ground up exactly how to use the software to accomplish their day-to-day tasks.
If you already have business-critical processes mapped out, it will be far easier for you and your team members to develop appropriate training courses for team members.
Continuous training is vital, but it must be done in a way that employees find valuable.
Too often companies require training that doesn’t deliver any new knowledge or skills to their employees, making the process seem like a waste of time. Therefore, it is best to gather employee feedback about which software features they need help with to do their job more efficiently. Leverage that feedback to create new training materials on a regular cadence.
Lastly, make sure that training materials are stored in a location accessible to all employees. Routinely go through the training materials to verify if every piece is up-to-date and accurate with your current tech stack. Communicate with your company trainers about how often the training will need to be updated and how you will track the training progress for each employee.
Choose User-Friendly Software Features Over Hidden Tech Tools
If you are choosing new software from a commercial vendor, or if you are having customized software developed for your team, it is best to opt for a user-friendly platform. But what exactly does user-friendly mean?
Most employees consider software programs and their tools to be user-friendly if they meet the following criteria:
- Clean-looking user interface (UI)
- Clearly labeled tabs and sections
- Easily understood names for tools and features
- Tools and features grouped based on similar tasks/processes
- Straightforward navigation processes
- Easy-to-find support articles
As you meet with commercial or custom software vendors, take the time to ask questions about whether their software programs will meet this list of user-friendly criteria. If buying from a commercial vendor, make sure to get demos of the actual software to verify whether the software is user-friendly. If working with a customized software developer, communicate your team’s needs and how you wish those needs to impact the user-friendly design of the software.
Support Software Programs Designed with End-Users in Mind
Leaders such as yourself guide employees, coach as necessary, and ensure that the business stays on track. With your eye on the big picture, it’s not uncommon to be unaware of how employees use software tools. Unfortunately, that disconnect often leads to purchasing software that aligns with overall business goals but does not match how your employees perform their daily duties.
One of your top priorities for choosing software should be to select software programs that are designed with end-users (your employees) in mind. After all, these are the people who will have to use the software every day, so choosing software programs and tools that can match their needs only makes your business stronger.
If you want your team members to be more productive and support software initiatives in your company, bring them into the software purchasing conversation.
For example, if your company chooses to buy off-the-shelf software, bring in the employees who will be using the software and have them sit through the demos. Empower them to ask questions during each demo about how the software tools will impact their workflows. Meet with the employees after each demo to get their honest feedback about the software and whether it’s a good fit for the company.
If you are choosing the customized software route, your customized software development team of product managers should be interviewing you and your employees to determine who will use the software, how they’ll use it, and where they’ll use it. Through the discovery and interview process, product managers and developers can create a tailored interface that meets the needs of end-users throughout every stage of the process.
Separate Day-to-Day Tools From Lesser Used Software Features
Most software programs are loaded with tools, and each team needs different tools for their day-to-day usage. As you evaluate both your business processes and the connected software used, it is vital to know which software tools are deemed daily usage versus those that are used less often.
Note that just because software tools are used less often does not mean they are unimportant to your business.
For instance, consider disaster recovery software. If everything goes right within your company, you may never need to use it. Nevertheless, if something does happen, you will be ecstatic that you invested in disaster recovery software.
After you map out all your business-critical processes and connect those with the software tools being used, start examining the lesser-used software tools and features. One way of labeling these tools and features may include putting them in different buckets, such as the following:
- Important for reporting purposes
- Important for safety purposes
- Unimportant for current business processes
- Not sure how to use
Your buckets may vary from the above list, but as you can see, some tools may fall into the first two buckets that are most likely used by leadership, accounting, and IT departments. It’s not that these tools are not valuable because they are used less often. These tools are simply used for very specific purposes that may only happen on a monthly, quarterly, or annual cadence.
The last two buckets listed, on the other hand, will include tools that are most likely not beneficial to your business. If you’re finding that the majority of the lesser-used tools fall within these two buckets, then it’s time to question whether the software program you're using is truly the best solution for your business.
Determine the Benefits of Rarely Used Software Tools for Your Business
As stated above, some rarely used software tools are valuable. Case in point, disaster recovery software. Nevertheless, not all lesser and rarely used software tools are vital. The question then becomes is it worth paying for those tools.
If you’re paying to use software from a commercial vendor, most likely you’re paying a subscription fee within a tiered system that gives you access to different tools. If you’ve identified which tools you’re not using, you may want to look into going to a lower, less expensive subscription tier, provided you get the capabilities you need from that tier.
Additionally, if the benefits of the software you’re getting don’t outweigh the number of lesser or rarely used tools you are stuck paying for, then it’s time to reevaluate whether the entire software program or subscription is worth the money.
In this situation, customized software solutions may provide a better route for businesses focused both on operational expenses and the ROI of their tech investments.
Customized software development providers should possess the business acumen necessary to understand how your industry works, the systems you need, and the best ways to optimize and streamline your processes. By working with you and your team to develop a roadmap for success and the software tools you’ll need to get you there, customized software providers can build exactly what you’ll need and leave out everything you don’t require. This puts you in control of your tech investment.
AltSource Provides Business Guidance to Get More Out of Your Software Stack
Increasing your ROI from technology starts with gaining a full understanding of how your business functions and your related software needs. By streamlining your processes and aligning technology investments to those processes, you will be more likely to decrease wasted spending on unnecessary software tools.
If you still have questions about analyzing your processes and your current technology stack, or how to choose the best technology solutions for your needs, reach out to our experts today and let’s discuss your concerns: email@example.com