Software implementations are change projects
Buying a software system is easy these days: you buy a license, install the solution, and you're ready to work. With software-as-a-service from the cloud, it's even easier. Here it is enough to take out a subscription, there is no need for installation. In the case of software for home use, this is certainly more or less correct. In the case of business-critical enterprise software, however, the situation is quite different. Here, a change project begins after the purchase of the software.
If you are a private person and want to buy software today, you are spoilt for choice. There are countless providers on the Internet with various products for every conceivable purpose. Consumer products such as office solutions (Office365, Google Docs, etc.) or apps for your smartphone can be conveniently downloaded and used for low license fees. In many cases, this is associated with a subscription, where your credit card is charged monthly and you can always enjoy the latest version of the product. More and more, such applications are also offered free of charge to private users. This is also referred to as freemium models, in which the standard solution with a limited range of functions is free of charge and the more sophisticated version with additional functions then costs something.
In business the situation is different
What is the difference in the case of a company that wants to procure and use a software application? "Instead of one user, I simply have a few hundred, so I simply procure the corresponding number of user licenses and hopefully receive a volume discount, right? Well, the situation described at the beginning cannot be scaled that easily and mapped to a business context. Here we are dealing with an almost fundamentally different case. Let's take a closer look at it with the help of an example.
ABC Corporation (to take a fictional company) has about 500 employees and produces medical devices. Dozens of developers, engineers, etc. work in research and development on a variety of projects. ABC Corporation has previously managed its projects and resources using Excel and MS Project files. After an in-depth analysis, the new management now concludes that a suitable application for multi-project and resource planning will bring enormous efficiency gains and added value (see our earlier article). Let's assume that the decision for a product has already been made. Let's call it, not entirely disinterestedly, PQFORCE. What features does this business application have that convinced the decision makers?
Business applications are multi-user systems
The crucial points that distinguish the described situation at ABC Corporation from that of the private user can be summed up in one point: A business application like PQFORCE is shared by many people. We are talking about a multi-user application. This is not simply a single-user application that is used separately by multiple users (examples of this would include Excel or MS Project).
- A multi-user application has the characteristic that all its users work with a common database. That is, all data that is created, read and modified via the application is in the same "data pot" (database) and is processed by all users together, often simultaneously from different devices. This is fundamentally different from the situation where multiple users are using Excel to edit their own files and (in the best case) store them on a shared data server, but typically manage much offline on the local device. This is referred to as Excel hell.
- A business application like PQForce needs to be able to handle multiple user roles. Not every user does the same thing with the application. It depends on his function, duties and competencies in the business. So, the system must give the user appropriate views and rights to the underlying data. User-friendliness is a crucial factor here.
- Finally, the data in a business application is (by definition) business critical. In somewhat simplified terms, this means that the company's business will be significantly compromised if this data is not available to the right decision-maker at the right time, or is simply wrong. The application must therefore ensure that the data pot remains integer at all times - no redundancy, no inconsistencies, only traceable changes, etc. In addition, the data should also be available to the user in real time , so that the consequences of changes made by one user are immediately visible to all other users.
Introduction of the new application requires rethinking within the company
It could have been a mission-critical application other than PQFORCE that we use to highlight the issue here. The above statements in this article would essentially not change. It is easy to see from what has been said that the introduction of such an application is basically accompanied by a change project in the company. Users must be willing to change previous habits ("I've always filed my Excel this way."). Previous workflows or even processes have to adapt to the new application to a certain degree. The efficiency gain from the introduction of a business application should be visible as soon as possible and not only in a few years, when the high investment has paid off. However, such high initial expenditures for business applications do not have to be.
This is possible if the company opts for a standard product that can be subscribed to as software-as-a-service. This means that there are no direct investment costs, but at most internal change efforts. And this is exactly the point: The decision-makers must be willing to let go of the idea of customer-specific individual software developments ("The application must work exactly as we have always done it." ). This can result in a much faster return on investment. Users therefore have to make friends with the new standard tool, part with previous habits and instead get used to new processes that also open up completely new possibilities for them. The fun factor should not be underestimated.
In a future article, we will then go into how this change in the company can be approached as painlessly as possible and even with a lot of verve and visible success in the short term. Stay tuned.
About the author
Dr. Daniel Hösli is Managing Director and Lead Consultant at INTRASOFT AG, whose SaaS solution PQFORCE is the leading platform for agile, project-oriented business management. He has been involved in the development of project management systems on a daily basis for 15 years in a consulting and project management capacity - both organizationally and technically - and thus has the experience from countless contacts and tasks from a wide variety of companies and different management levels.