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Using 40% of Your Software?

No one ever buys anything with the intent of using a small percentage of the product. Generally, when one makes a major purchase, a good amount of research is involved, and desired features are scrutinized for efficiency and effectiveness. There may be yes/no checklists involved, various conversations with the vendor, and many product demonstrations. People do this because they are planning on using the features that they will be paying for. Why is it then that most companies only use 40% of the features their software contains?

Using 40% of Your Software? 1

Software is the core of any competitive staffing company. How well the company utilizes the software is imperative to success in business today. Too often, when assessing software, decision-makers are blown away by colorful presentations that mean nothing to core business processes. Functionality should be the basis for any software decision and not colorful diagrams or how the screen looks. Software should also contain a basic workflow that stabilizes how the firm will utilize the product to accomplish tasks.

How can software productivity be measured? First, you must be able to report on the number of time employees spend accomplishing specific tasks. Next, there should be reporting for the individual employees to self-assess their productivity and plan tasks. Third, assess the time employees take to respond to customer orders and inquiries. Last, the ratio of revenue, profitability, and output to employee expenses and time spent on tasks must be measured. To accomplish all of this, you must be utilizing a fully operational CRM Model.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the most misunderstood term in the industry. The true meaning of CRM is the ability to measure success across the board from Marketing to Sales, Operations, and Back Office. This model can only be implemented with a fully integrated front and back-office model. The various departments within a firm must share information to be effective. This means that invoices should be viewable from the front office. Collection calls must be viewable from the front office. Software is a company communication project.

Once the software model is in place and contains everything needed to run the company, a Software Policy Manual must be created and reviewed with all employees in the company. A Software Policy Manual describes all of the major tasks that need to be completed utilizing the software and how the tasks are completed. In addition, it should contain “best practices” for the specific organization as every company’s process is different.

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Typically, when new software is put into place, the users go through basic training. This is generally a cookie-cutter course that the vendor uses to train all of its new customers. At times the course is tailored toward the type of staffing being done. A course like this is necessary and is enough to begin the journey to software success.

If an extensive software suite is selected, and it should be, the software will contain many more features than can be covered during a basic training course. It would not make sense to include everything as users will normally absorb about 50% of basic training, often walking away a bit dazed after a couple of training days; if more than the basics were covered, it would most certainly cause user brain freeze.

The initial basic training experience can be improved in 3 ways: 1) The basic course should feature “hand-on” training; 2) No interruptions should be allowed during the training; 3) Users must begin practicing what was learned immediately after training. For new software, users should be trained as close to the live date, ideally while the final data migration is completed. In addition, the Software Policy Manual should be complete and available for reference on the “live data.”

Once users have begun utilizing software, a common mistake is to stop training. Staffing is a high turnover business, so the chances are that 50% of the initial staff that was trained may be gone after the first year or two – maybe sooner. That speaks to the necessity of a formal training process for new hires. The class can be an internal training program if you have someone on staff that can dedicate time to formal training. If you don’t want to be in the software training business, solicit this service from your staffing software vendor. Too often, formal new hire training is often skipped, resulting in users who have no clue how to use the software effectively.

Another area often overlooked is ongoing user training. Remember that basic class that: 1) doesn’t cover everything and 2) users will forget 50% off? Once users begin to use the software and complete tasks, you will want users to become “power users.” “Power use” should not be relegated to a certain few who take the initiative to advance their knowledge of the software. Every user should be a power user, but they can only attain this status if they are offered advanced training. This makes the difference between a successful software implementation that offers monetary benefits/competitive advantage and a mediocre implementation that everyone complains about.

There are several ways a user can get advanced training. The best route is to get regular training from your software vendor. Your vendor will have experienced trainers that know the software. Unless you have the resources to have a dedicated trainer on staff that does nothing but focus on the software, you will not duplicate vendor training.

On-line help is always available if you are using a leading software product. Familiarize all users with how to use this essential tool. Generally, vendors keep this type of information online as hardcopy user manuals are, for the most part, a thing of the past.

Next, if your vendor offers training webinars on best practices or new features, make sure that your users attend these. Again, this should not be optional. Often such sessions are free.

Another way to gain knowledge is to be a part of your vendor’s LinkedIn or Facebook group. Often tips are posted, and tidbits can be learned. Every piece of knowledge is important. For example, if you are utilizing software from a leading vendor, several updates and new modules are offered regularly. Could you find out about them? Know your resources.

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