Every now and then, a familiar question comes up which IT and the business is expected to answer. “How much of the ERP/CRM/SCM/… solution’s features do we use?” How do we increase this to gain the most from our investment! As a result, everyone gets down to analyzing the feature set once again, painstakingly attempting to move beyond the standard 30% number in good implementations.
In the last year or so, many CIOs struggled to provide a rationale to this question, while others undertook the task to improve usage. This expectation needs some careful analysis to understand why this question comes up periodically — all the more so in difficult times, when other investments are scarce.
There are significant expectations to be fulfilled when organizations make large investments in commercially available software solutions. These expectations set by the vendors, IT team and occasionally the business project lead tend to indicate that upon implementation, the enterprise will undergo a transformation from its current state to a highly optimized state giving it a significant advantage in the industry. This overselling of benefits continues even today — many decades after three letter solutions entered the IT arena.
Any large generic solution coupled with industry-specific templates or add-on modules will be feature-rich in its endeavor to address all types of scenarios — irrespective of whether they occur within your specific organization or not. Some of these scenarios are executed based on every company’s specifics, while others are not deemed relevant. Thus starts the journey of partial usage, which is accepted during the project. Over time, the vendor continues to evolve his solution based on customer feedback and industry evolution, irrespective of whether companies adopt such incremental functionality.
I believe that CIOs should draw parallels from other commercial products to educate the business on why usage will always remain sub-optimal when measured as a percentage of all the available features. A handy example on this front can be the humble cell phone, which is bought by people based on new features that are added faster than most of us can comprehend. 90% of cell phone users (which includes the same corporate teams who berate the IT solution’s inadequate usage), do the same with these devices. Or move the lens towards television sets, which are bought after careful evaluation — only to be used for the most basic features.
We keep on upgrading office productivity solutions like word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools, but rarely evolve beyond the earlier feature usage. So why do we have to run after every new version? To remain current and compatible, of course!
Can the same apply to our ERP/CRM/… solutions?