Are you making the most of your application software?

by Frank 19. February 2012 13:05

I have been in the application software industry for most of my professional life. I started in bureaus designing and programming bespoke applications for a variety of clients then moved to mainframes and online and real time application software development and then to my own software company in 1984. I have worked with thousands of customers and hundreds of applications and I have never seen any customer use anything like one hundred-percent of an application’s functionality.

Whenever I visit my customers there is a common dialog that goes along the lines of, “It would be great if RecFind could do …….” To which my reply always is, “Actually it can, would you like me to show you?”

Yes, before you ask, we do provide detailed help screens and manuals and both classroom and online training. We also have a plethora of helpful information on our website including white papers, a Knowledgebase & FAQs, News, helpful hints, product descriptions, etc., etc.

We also employ inside sales people who talk regularly to our customers and we communicate via newsletters and emails and, of course, this blog.

There is no shortage of information on what our products can do. There is however, still a big gap between what our products can do and what our customers understand about the capabilities of our products. From my experience, the knowledge gap is common across all products and software vendors because no one has yet come up with a mechanism to continually train and remind the customer’s personnel about a product’s complete functionality and entire range of capabilities.

Nor, do I suspect, would the average customer’s end user be too happy about being bombarded with unsolicited information of this kind. The fact is people only have time to work on a need-to-know basis. They only want to know enough to get the job done and this is entirely understandable.

Customers have multiple application products to work with and unlimited work to complete in a limited time frame. Typical end users do not have the time to become expert in any one application product and nor do they have the time to explore all of its capabilities or even to keep completely up to date with an application product as its moves from release to release.

This is a common dilemma for all application software providers. The best they can hope for is a single ‘champion’ within each customer that does his/her best to keep up to date and informed.

The end result of the above reality is that no customer ever manages to get maximum value from its application software. No organization ever gets a full return on its investment. There will always be many things the application software could be configured to handle that would improve productivity, solve burning problems and reduce costs but the knowledge gap prevents this happening.

The only solution I can think of is for the customer to pay the vendor to provide a resident onsite application expert who continually looks for application niches where the software can add value. However, the two flaws in this approach are:

  1. Where does the customer find the money?; and
  2. Where does the vendor find the people?

Apart from these two minor flaws, it is the perfect solution except for the fact that the application expert would also need to also be an expert in the customer’s business. You have to understand the customer’s business processes before you can determine whether a particular application software product could be a solution. This means that our application consultant needs to be pretty clever and very experienced with bags of initiative and there aren’t a lot of these people around; which brings me back to flaw number 2.

Archimedes was supposed to have said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

I say, “Give me enough smart people and I could automate the world.”

In both cases, we are missing the essential ingredient.

The difficulties don’t mean that we give up, au contraire; they force us to work harder at a solution. The vendor and the customer need to work together to find new ways for the vendor’s product to add value to the customer’s business. This is a mutually beneficial partnership.

Our product RecFind 6 was specifically designed and engineered to be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. It was designed from the outset to be a multi-application solution and to enable the customer to use the one piece of application software to solve multiple business problems. To be able to leverage off a single investment and use the one product for multiple business application needs.

We provide the high level tools free of charge with RecFind 6 so the customer can configure multiple solutions (e.g., records management, help desk, asset management, contract management, document management, email management, customer relationship management or CRM) using a single copy of RecFind 6. The tools also allow the customer to ‘partition’ the various applications so each group of users thinks it has its own solution.

However, despite the unique capabilities of RecFind 6, we still have the problem of knowing enough about our customers to be able to propose additional uses for our product. Maybe if all of our customers had their head office in North Sydney our task would be easier but I doubt it. As it is, we have customers all over the world in all time zones and in some very remote locations.

The Internet and Citrix tools like GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToTraining largely solve the distance problems and do so in the most economical way without airfares, expenses and hotel charges. We use these tools extensively and our customers love the convenience and low cost of the solutions we are able to provide thanks to our friends at Citrix. But, there is still no substitute for being onsite and in face to face dialog to best understand a customer’s business processes and needs. It is a case of the old way is still the best way.

Our challenge in these austere times is to convince our customers of the value of our proposition. That is, that an investment in an onsite investigation of needs will always provide bottom line and productivity benefits; that it will more than pay for itself in the short term.

It is early days yet for our model but many of my customers are already using RecFind 6 to solve multiple application software problems. It is always a battle for both of us to find the time and resources for the investigation but it always pays off.

We are continually looking for new ways to simplify and systemise the processes required to determine where we can add value. We don’t have a perfect solution yet but we keep trying because the value proposition is undeniable; do more with less. Buy a single product instead of having to buy ten products. Learn how to use a single product instead of having to learn how to use ten different products. Deal with a single vendor instead of having to deal with ten different vendors. No integration required instead of having to integrate ten different products.

We know we have the right paradigm, now we just need to reach our audience.

Comments (1) -

Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee United States
11/22/2012 7:18:23 PM #

<a href="">; Thanks. This is a good article</a>


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