When did you last use Microsoft Word? How often does the formatting go astray?
Most people would answer today and often to those two questions.
People struggle with Word, because they do not know how to use a very fundamental feature – Styles.
This scenario demonstrates how a large percentage of features in software products are not used to their full advantage and it is as true for specialist or even custom software as it is for packaged products like Microsoft Office.
Pendo, a platform that analyses software usage data for product managers, found in a survey that,
“…about 80% of features in the typical cloud software product are rarely or never used.”[i]
The often-quoted statistics from Standish Group Chairman, Jim Johnson’s presentation at XP2002 state that in four internal use products only 20% of features were used often or frequently and 45% never. So it seems that little has changed in the last two decades.
Why is this so? In some cases this is because no training is provided, in others because the initial software training focusses on guiding users though the most essential functions, leaving advanced features and functions for individuals to discover on their own.
So how do we unlock the benefits of those unused features and find out more about the tools we use from both a user and a business perspective?
The best way is to lead by example. Every organization has some curious trailblazers, who should be encouraged to discover new features and then share with their colleagues. Encourage all to seek out additional training through online material or by providing users with follow up training focussed on optimising procedures. Speak to your vendors; ask ‘Are there features we are not using that could benefit our business?’.
Periodically audit your software and data management activities. In the same way that individuals can get stuck in a process, so too can companies. As tools are added to solve specific challenges, it is easy to end up with duplicate and fragmented processes; or even to be simply unaware that features exist. Just think about all the functions on your mobile device that you have never used simply because you never bothered to take a good look at what was available.
Look for duplication in your work – for example, how many times do you create and maintain customer information – then see if you can remove this duplication through better use of your existing tools.
Check if business information is spread across multiple locations, making it difficult to access, maintain and report on. An example is keeping documents on a complex file server, even though Document Management is a feature of a software product used by a single department and theoretically available for all to use.
A product purchased for a specific purpose such as Compliance, could contain features that other departments can use such as Document Management and Contact Management.
Carrying out an audit of the use and features of your tools could expose opportunities, especially for smaller businesses, to consolidate and reduce both software licence costs but also operational and maintenance costs and improve business efficiency
So next time you login to your primary business software spend a few minutes exploring it and see if you can discover a new timesaving feature to share with your colleagues. Who knows, this might make your life easier!!!