When something fails it is human nature to blame something else. When a company implements a software system into their organisation and it doesn’t work the most common argument why this is, falls squarely at the feet of the software itself. However, one of the most avoidable reasons why a software system doesn’t work is because the people using it don’t know how it works.
In a world where we associate technology with progress, we automatically assume that having a technological masterpiece in place is automatically going to produce dividends. This is not the case. Tiger Woods is not a great golfer because he uses the most expensive graphite golf clubs. In the hands of a novice, those same golf clubs will not produce the same results. Similarly, the software implemented into a company cannot be expected to just work without having a thorough understanding of how the software operates. It is still incredible to see companies today, who have spent fortunes on software and then have not trained their staff in using it. In no other competitive environment would you expect to give top of the range equipment to untrained performers and then walk away expecting results.
On one level it is understandable, with so many systems emulating the popular windows format, most software on the market today look and act very similar. It is then logical that if you are computer literate and know how to operate one system then it is possible to pick up another by trial and error. In some ways, this is possible, and if we can draw on the golfing analogy once again, it is possible to learn things on your own by practicing. However, the same things will result in both scenario’s, moderate success will be achieved but bad habits will be formed along the way. This may be acceptable to a novice or amateur golfer but not a professional, why then is it acceptable for a professional company?
Even when a company does implement a training regime, the most predictable cognitive reasoning attached along side any training venture is ‘cutting costs’. There are many cases where, a sales manager will have basic training in the software with the intention of passing that knowledge further to the rest of the department. This chain reaction of learning is fuelled mostly by a need to cut costs in ‘wasteful’ training of the entire workforce, but also leads to insufficient and loss of knowledge. Teaching and learning are specialist areas where subjectivity plays a strong role. One person who learns a technical or academic process learns in different ways and draws and retains information particular to his particular niche. A sales manager may only draw on certain points of a system that affect his own environments without passing knowledge that is useful to others.
In our education system we treat with great respect teachers and professors who are trained in teaching methods that impart knowledge to students in various ways. A student who completes a course is not suddenly qualified to teach that subject and were they to attempt it would not easily achieve the same results. Similarly, training one person to use a complicated software system with the intention of passing that knowledge on will result in the same kind of failures.
Conversely, there are occasions where the opposite is true and the whole work force is trained with the exception of the managers who may view training as a performance exercise for staff only. In such situations, the knowledge that the fully trained users are inputting is lost on individuals who know little of what they are dealing with. The object of a software system is to record data and allow a company to view necessary data in manageable ways. In such a way, the software system can be compared to a central nervous system carrying information to the brain. If the brain cannot recognise or understand the information the whole process of the system is meaningless. Managers are the driving forces of the company and as such need to know as well as anybody the best ways of utilising the tools at hand.
Companies can spend huge amounts of money investing in software that aims to improve an organisations performance or efficiency, but what most people forget is that the investment is not in the software itself which is a tool, but in the people who are using it. Investing in the people is what will make your company more successful.
George Petri is Managing Director of Nomis Limited which created SalesVision, one of the UK's leading IT systems providers in effective Sales Performance Management.