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Unused software costs companies millions


Imagine if a Wimpy or Macdonald's burger actually tasted as good as the fast
food outlets' promotions make them look, writes Adrian van der Merwe, MD of
8th Man Consulting. Instead, a diner ends up with something that is quite
bland, and significantly less exciting than it appears.

Enterprise software is often the same: when corporates buy it, they find the
sizzle is significantly more exciting than the reality.
That's a real pity, given the reasons large corporations buy software: they
expect the software to change their business, to transform the way they do
Instead, unfortunately, they find the software delivers an incremental
The cost of this disappointment is not insubstantial: one company at which
we implemented a robust financial consolidation system had racked up
R9-million in costs. They got that, and it's working well, but at that price
they should be expecting so much more.
Why are they not getting all they need from their software when they have
invested so much? (And, by the way, this applies to much software, from
Microsoft Word to business intelligence, from enterprise performance
management to systems management.)
Part of the answer lies in the sales process: the list of features as put
forward by an eager salesperson can be overwhelming, just as the picture of
a Big Mac is appealing to a hungry youngster.
So the corporate gets the wow factor from a slick salesperson, and, needing
critical business functionality, secures budget to obtain the software.
External consultants are brought in to implement the software – it almost
takes a team of external consultants working with the internal team, usually
finance, to bring together a critical mass of skills. This process can take
between six months and two years, depending on the complexity of the
environment and the level of process change and skills transfer required.
And it is typically a costly exercise, with the implementation costing three
to five times more than the software itself.
After the company signs off on the project, companies such as ours are
typically called in and asked to do application reviews. We conduct a
post-implementation audit of how the software has been implemented, and how
well it is being used, by whom, what results are being obtained, and
remedial action to drive further adoption, if necessary.
In many cases we find that the clients are not using even half of the
functionality the software offers.
There are a number of reasons for this, some of them obvious, others less
The first is that the company wants to implement the software quickly and
with the least risk and disruption, so the team narrows the project scope to
minimise the implementation risk. There is also a strong focus on meeting
the business requirements, rather than seeing what the software can actually
Now, these are both laudable business goals, but they do end up with
software which cost millions being quite dramatically under-used.
The question is: "Where to next?", but in most cases, clients simply do not
know. Once the business requirements are met, unless they are advised on a
strategy, clients are unsure how best to maximise their massive investment.
In most cases, we find three common factors as to why companies don't go
further with their enterprise software:
* They lack indepth knowledge of what the product can do;
* They lack the exposure to what other clients have done;
* They lack the resources; and
* They lack the skills.
All four are easily addressable. The quickest and easiest answer in most
cases is to hire consultants who have the resources, skills, insight and
experience to unlock the potential of their software.
Another is for the company to network with other clients to see what the
user group has been doing. Otherwise the company can adapt its processes to
unlock some of the value in the application, rather than limiting the
software to reflect its existing processes.
The alternative is to continue spending millions on complex, feature-rich
applications, while using only a fraction of all they can offer.
To return to the burger analogy, if you've been seduced by the advertising
to buy the burger, you're probably going to want to eat all of it.
Especially if the burger cost you R9-million.