We're all familiar with the 80/20 rule. For some this is 80% of their company's revenue comes from 20% of their customers. Or maybe this is realized in employee productivity - 80% of an organization's meaningful productivity comes from 20% of the workforce. None of this is to say that companies typically have 80% waste in either customers or employees but it serves as a starting point to understand utilization. The most frustrating part of this analogy is the implication that anyone has 20% of a significant investment showing results while 80% of that same investment is being under-utilized.
In our industry, numerous studies find the same to be true about business software. When businesses answer questions of features used in their business software and those answers are compared against the available features of the software we typically see 20% of the features used regularly. There is another 20% of features that are used somewhat or rarely bringing average software utilization up to 40%. This means that on average, a business has 60-80% of their business software features not being used to add revenue or save time in their business. Note that we're not talking about features they need to buy, but functionality they have already paid for that is not being utilized.
So how do we get more from the software we use? Here a few steps we recommend as best practices for our clients and customers that ask us that very question.
- Remember why you got into business. This step is important for any business owner or executive. Your business provides a meaningful product or service that results in revenue when executed well. Now that your business has grown, you may find yourself bogged down in procedural minutia instead of your overall business goals. Reorienting your focus will allow you to let go of some day to day tasks that can be (and should be) automated, often using software functionality you already have available.
- Designate a subject matter expert(SME)/super user for your business software. This should be a current user of the software you are looking to more fully utilize and in addition to using the software for their current role they should be evaluating what other features are available and how they can potentially impact the business.
- Work with your current software vendor/partner. The key to this process is to gain additional utilization, not just check the boxes next to all the features of your software to say you are using them. The difference between those two processes is that Utilization leads to results. Your software partner should be versed in the functions of your software as well as your business to the point that they can provide meaningful recommendations for implementing the necessary processes to fully utilize your software functions.
These are just a few high level steps we discuss with our clients. The key is understanding their unique business and processes to provide meaningful and actionable steps for their software. If you haven't looked at how your organization utilizes key business software like accounting, inventory, payroll, HR, and other operational systems - do a quick mental exercise using the above points to see where you and your team stand. The results will be helpful no matter where you land!