Put that piece of software down right now

Think before you spend

Can anyone get excited about the latest release of Microsoft Office? Due next year, Office 12 will be backed by the usual advertising hyperbole about transforming the way we work, and the pretty colours and funky sound track plus relentless press coverage will conspire to make people part with their cash.

Let’s be clear here, Office is a fabulous piece of software which compared to working with pen and paper and typewriters, has revolutionalised the way we do business. And despite its faults, later incarnations have become more reliable, quicker and boast greater functionality. But regardless, the improvements will not be enough to justify the cost of an upgrade for most. If you straw poll your co-workers, you would probably discover that most were perfectly happy with Office 97 and would have embraced only a handful of new functions since that release which they could probably live without.

This situation is by no means exclusive to Office or even Microsoft; it cuts right to the heart of the problems which still exist within IT today. Namely, procurement of software and hardware without proper analysis of business impact or consulting with users. Ask any caller to the helpdesk for their number one IT-related wish and they would almost certainly reply with either improved ease of use or reliability. As we have already discussed, most software these days is reasonably user friendly and as IT has become more entrenched, even the least technically minded are able to figure out nuisances in a programme or operating system to make it do what it should. Reliability also has improved greatly, to the point where an adequate security policy coupled with decent desktop maintenance should ensure that problems occur sparingly.

Therefore, unless we are really struggling to help users answer the remaining questions they have in terms of usability and failing to fix the problems that occur on the desktop, we must be setting our sights higher. When upgrading or purchasing a system, we should be asking theses types of questions:

  • How will this benefit users?
  • How will this benefit the business?
  • Will a change negatively impact the business? How are we going to justify this impact, even in the short term?

Desktop or enterprise software of course can bring massive advantages to a business, IT and users, but we must be certain that we understand where and how these benefits will be achieved. In particular, although the gamble is greater when buying corporate rather than desktop software, the potential payback is much greater and therefore deserves more of our consideration.

The problem is that very little software is built with return on investment (ROI) in mind. Software like Sostenuto from Sunrise is therefore in a good position because it was built recently enough to take into account the focus on ROI and the developers also took business benefits into account when building it.

Many Sunrise customers are working with Sostenuto to prove this point, and Abacus Wealth Management and Anglian Water both spring to mind as excellent examples. Anglian is using Sostenuto to manage a telemetry system and the associated IT, and the success of this arrangement has caught the attention of other departments who see Sostenuto as not just a thoroughly efficient service management tool, but a fantastic asset for managing complex processes.

A similar situation is true at Abacus, where Sostenuto is used by the Technology Department not just for the project management, application development and technical support to 400 users based across five UK locations, but also with managing the general ledger, time and billing and facilities management. With the potential to expand the reach to yet more areas of the business, the realisation is that a well thought out piece of software can not only provide genuine benefits to the core IT function, but help improve efficiency across a large range of tasks, meaning that ROI is far easier to calculate and see on a day-to-day basis.

By turning our attention away from IT, we can begin to change our mindset and focus on the myriad of ways we can help users. Some Sunrise customers have taken to this idea strongly and regularly send helpdesk and IT staff out to wander among desks to ask users what they want from IT. With a member of IT by their side, users are more likely to ask a question which if answered correctly, may allow IT to improve the way they work. These calls rarely come into the helpdesk as the perception is still that such calls are for faults only. But by gathering and recording this kind of information about the real issues that users are facing, it is possible to build a useful picture of what IT should be doing in order to impress and improve the business. Alternatively, you could just buy a software upgrade I hear that the new Office will allow groups to share documents.

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