Is fear of changing your existing software bad for your business?

Successful companies often face operational challenges from outgrowing their established software systems, yet many businesses stick with outdated and inefficient software due to the inertia of habit, fear of change and the general feeling of security that comes with being in a comfort zone.

The fear of switching your existing legacy system due to potential business disruptions, albeit well founded, may be holding back your business by preventing it from benefiting from improved technology.

Change is inevitable and, when driven by the demands of the modern global economy with its frequent regularity shifts, can be hard to keep up with; which is why sticking with outdated software systems often creates a roadblock to growth for companies working towards global engagement, visibility, efficiency, and integration.

Think back to when your business started. Taking initiative, focusing on progress, and getting out of your comfort zone helped to build the foundation of your business and it may be worth taking a fresh ‘start-up’ look at where your business is today.

Facing the harsh reality

1. Software systems are frequently purchased as standalone solutions to specific business issues as they arise. For example, purchasing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage customer details and sales, a time tracking tool to manage productivity, a billing package to manage invoicing and payments, or human resources solution to manage a growing staff base. However, over time as the business takes off and grows, these patchwork purchases start to deliver their own productivity issues.

2. Using multiple systems has some glaringly obvious inefficiencies such as the inability to report across your whole business and some less obvious ones. Duplicated data capture is one such example. Think about entering client data in the CRM, billing and time systems, and keeping that data up to date. Think about the multiple steps required to compare timesheet records to invoices and then to collections to calculate utilization, realization and collection rates.

3. The purpose of your business software is to ensure you have a business planning system in place that manages your operations efficiently and ultimately boosts overall performance. If your system does not deliver on these expectations, nor help you achieve optimal performance, then you are probably wasting precious resources that will affect your growth.

Investing in a software solution that solves the issues created by adding systems piecemeal is a good idea for boosting productivity, but needs to be done in consideration of the fears of business disruption and resistance from within in order to deliver the expected benefits. In the words of Susan Jeffers, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Here’s how to face down three common concerns that put the brakes on business software upgrades:

What about my data?
You have spent years recording volumes of information in the various systems that you use and quite rightly feel the need to protect that time investment. But, the idea that you have to start all over again from the beginning is not realistic.

Data can usually be migrated (a techie term for moved) from your old system into your new system. You may even reap some benefits in the process. For example, during data migration you can perform a number of automated data cleanup actions and start work in your new system with better quality data than before. Work with your technology provider to identify where you can automate data clean up during the transition from one system to another. Some good examples of automated data cleanup are: removal of duplicates, archiving of old records, standardization of reference data.

How will I run my business during the change?
The biggest fear is disruption of the business at the point of switching to a new technology and up to the time when users become proficient. This is a very real fear and planning and training are the keys to a smooth transition.

It is relatively easy to keep system downtime to a minimum with switches made during non-working hours and to safeguard against unexpected difficulties by running parallel systems for a designated period. A good approach to help users while they get up to speed in a new system is to plan the change for a quiet period when the working environment is more relaxed, make sure that users are well trained on the new system before the switch is made and have realistic expectations of them during this period. These actions will keep your business running as usual and keep employee stress to a minimum.

What if my employees do not want to change?
End user resistance can threaten to derail the move to a new system. Most employees do not like disruption and having built their processes and working habits around multiple systems may be reluctant to embrace a change. User buy-in to the process is an essential element to its long-term optimal outcome. The best way to achieve user buy-in is to engage your employees in the process from the beginning. Start by ensuring they have an understanding of the benefits and the value the new systems will bring to their day-to-day work processes. Ask them to review company policies and procedures to ensure they are adapted to the new technology. Appoint a team or employee to be responsible for the implementation and train some as experts to provide assistance throughout the transition. The most important defining factor for success will always be your relentless persistence of improvement and growth. Overall, you want to change the “environment” and culture along with the new system.

It’s important to acknowledge that most of our worst fears are embedded in our resistance to new things and are more of an emotional response to situation rather than a factual one; once we get over them the reality is far less fearsome than we expected.

Fear of change may be holding back your business’ progress and, although habit changes can be rather challenging, but once they develop and kick in, the return will prove to be worth the investment in the long run, through tangible benefits that will increase profits, reduce risks from non-compliance fines, and help your company’s overall evolution.

Moebius is a software development and information technology consulting company. Its main area of business is the development of its comprehensive business automation solution Moebius Software. Moebius has completed a number of projects involving consolidation of multiple-business activities into its solutions including the migration of business data and documents, training and business process planning.