Got crappy software?

Improving business applications for knowledge workers in the food industry has its challenges. It is easy to see the need to improve business processes where people manually do things a computer could to better for them. Knowledge workers in today’s office should spend more time working with their brain than working with their hands. Once in a while companies develop an urge to change things, to get a new computer system or change an existing one. More often than not, these projects fail. They lead to people saying “We have a crappy system!”.

Guess what, it is actually quite rare that the systems are crappy. It is normally a combination of IT-Managers, Managers, Users, Software Vendors and sometimes the software itself, that is crap.

When you experience that a certain important business function is not working as you would like it, it is in the hands of the users to clearly articulate what they want and how they want it. In most food companies I visited in my life, I must say that you rarely run across individuals that can say what they want. I don’t mean that they need to have deep IT knowledge, but people should have detailed knowledge of their work and should have a vision on how it could be made easier for them. You sometimes even have management culture that does not allow the needed level of creativity, the famous 20% google uses to let’s its engineers pursue new ways and ideas. Not that 20% is needed, but a certain amount of time should be allocated to think about how you can make your life better, at work and at home. The first levels of failure are the users themselves.

If users articulate what they want, they run it up the flagpole. Normally they approach their managers with ideas or the IT department. There is normally the next level of failure. IT people sometimes do not understand the users, have insufficient knowledge of the software they are using and cannot deliver what users and managers want. So the 2nd level of failure is normally the IT department an

The third level of failure lies already with the software vendor that you are using. Most systems today are fairly sophisticated, and in most instances companies use somewhere between 10% and 30% of the software they actually have. The remaining rest is called in industry lingo ‘shelf-ware’. A big reason of this is that software vendors and their systems integrators do not get the functionality out of the door. The system has the features and capabilities, but customers do not get it implemented. Reasons can be, that the documentation is lacking, sample applications are missing or the trainers software vendors provide are not skilled enough either in the subject matter at hand or in their skills for transferring knowledge. So the third level of failure is the delivery system of the solution.

The final level of failure is the software itself. It is rare that a software is crappy from a get go. If software really does not do what is needed, you need to move on. You get into such a situation only, if either your business as changed drastically since you decided for the software or your software evaluation process was not good and thorough, most of the times spoiled by external consultants and slick sales people. Keep in mind that this 4th and final reason for a crappy system is normally the easiest way out. All groups participating in a project can easily agree on the software that stinks, because any other option would mean that they have to take responsibility on the failure themselves. So keep in mind, that there is a 75% chance that it is not the software that is crappy.

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