SOFTWARE IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO ALL THE PROBLEMS – BUT PLAYS A VERY IMPORTANT PART
Software and apps for quality, process and project management have now been flooding the market for a number of years. Many promise that they are better, faster, more flexible, and more intuitive than anything else ever seen on the market.
However, if the users of the applications do not keep step with these new opportunities, these companies will fail to make any headway. Instead, after going through a brief period of frustration, they will simply push the blame for their acceptance and performance problems over to the software manufacturers.
Are they really the ones behind the widespread dissatisfaction with the software solution that was purchased – sometimes at a considerable expense – in order to finally solve the structural problems?
Analogies taken from the field of astronomy illustrate that there are several crucial factors to be considered in order to make a wise choice when purchasing and implementing business software.
The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
At the end of December 2020, we were able to observe the “great conjunction” of the two planets, Jupiter, and Saturn, in the night sky. At least when viewed from the Earth, they appeared to be getting closer and closer, almost merging together. A constellation that only occurs around every 20 years.
Some companies set out to buy new software, for example for their quality control, quality assurance or process management sections, in a similarly seldom manner. Such projects are too costly and time-consuming.
The “great conjunction” in this case is when software manufacturers claim to have understood and solved all of their customers’ problems in their latest creation: Greater flexibility and ease of usage coupled with maximum functionality.
However, if we shift positions, we will discover that Jupiter and Saturn are at a distance of some 750 million kilometers, despite their apparent proximity. Sometimes, the gap between the value proposition and the experience made when using the software is also huge:
- You have to pay dearly for reaching beyond a standard level of flexibility.
- The more features that are included, the less user-friendly the solution is.
- Software manufacturers supposedly understand the requirements of their customers. However, since many customers are not even sure themselves what they need or want, this statement is often simply wrong.
If you are a customer of a company to which none of the above three points apply, consider yourself lucky and make sure you stay with them. It would certainly be exciting to learn how your “great conjunction” went in the case of this company.
The search for a second Earth
Many companies entertain the hope that all their process problems will be solved by introducing new software. This is comparable to the launch of a manned mission to the Moon or Mars to set up a space station there – or the search for exoplanets in the habitable zone around their respective stars, i.e. the zone in which life might possibly have evolved.
We hope that the problems we humans cause ourselves can be solved by moving to another planet. But how is that supposed to work if our “mindset” moves with it?
If the concept is not changed and we do not clean up internally before launching the project, we will once again have the very same problems within a short space of time. It is exactly the same when acquiring new software.
Many companies squeeze their outdated, complicated – sometimes even unnecessary – processes into the basic framework of the new software, referring to this as “their requirements catalog”. This is rarely concerned with what is needed and why but rather with the “how”. So that their workflows can be left virtually unchanged. This is purported to increase employee acceptance.
So how exactly is “any old software ” supposed to solve our conceptual problems? How could a second Earth save our civilization when we ourselves are the problem?
Software manufacturers …
- should stop pretending that their solution is suitable for all industries and customers. Quality control using microbiological serial dilution is just something completely different from physically measuring components.
- should put more energy into developing and improving their applications to achieve greater customer value instead of prioritizing work on their licensing models.
- should stop believing that “isolated solutions” are always bad and that they will be able to satisfy all their requirements using one single software solution. Connectivity between individual applications is improving all the time. And more and more companies have understood that it is no longer the done thing to charge horrendous sums for programming individual interfaces.
- should finally realize that the use of new tools alone will not solve their conceptual, structural, and procedural problems. Although they may be the starting point for a corresponding project, the innovation itself takes place during the planning phase – when the new process design is defined.
The bottom line is that we need to be more honest. We need to be honest with ourselves – and also need our suppliers and contractual partners to be honest in view of what is actually possible and realistic. If we achieve this, then we will simultaneously achieve the desired conjunction and feel comfortable on the Earth we inhabit without permanently looking around for a new place – one that will not be able to solve our self-made problems either.
What does everything center on?
The way I see it, everything centers on how to solve our customers’ problems and satisfy their needs, instead of creating unnecessary dependencies or offering products that provide no real benefit.
That brings me back to astronomy one final time. Our solar system also orbits around something. Around the center of the Milky Way. To complete one orbit, a so-called “galactic year”, our solar system needs around 225 million years – since our sun was formed around 4.6 billion years ago, almost exactly 20 galactic years have passed.
If we all concerned ourselves more with our companies’ raison d’être, i.e. the creation of customer benefit, however diverse this may be, we would be laying a good foundation for successful cooperative partnerships in the long term.
By astronomical standards, our lives are extremely short. On all accounts, much too short to be annoyed about software for longer periods of time. So, you should try to recognize it for what it is: A great tool which is improving all the time, and which will be able to solve your customers’ problems even better.
Florian Frankl has been actively engaged in quality control in the food industry for over 15 years. Furthermore, in his role as trainer and consultant for the Q-Enthusiast brand, he helps both people and companies to make the tools of good management accessible and usable in a simple and vivacious fashion.
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