Blame the users, or the technology?

Hardly a news story but this week’s Supply Management has a news story headline “Councils: most buying goals met“.

One of the goals listed in the article that was not met was the use of e-marketplaces.

Each council was also meant to be using an e-marketplace by 2006, but latest figures show only 22 per cent have met this target.

The traditional response to such a dismal failure to adopt a new technology is: “more change management, please, doctor”. As if the technology users are always to blame for being to blinkered.

But are people always and everywhere scared of new technology? I don’t think so. People are not afraid of adopting new technologies if those technologies are good. Excel. Mobile phones. SMS. Email. Social Networks. Online airline check-in. Google. Online banking. Etc etc. (yes, I am old enough to remember offices before Excel. I spent some time working as an accountant doing 4 column trial balances on paper. That was horrible).

Oh yes iPods. Good technology. Vista. Not as good technology.

You can make your own lists.

To come back to the SM article: if an e-marketplace helps buyers buy stuff better then of course they will use it. But if it is just a pain in the a** to use then they will stick to email and Excel. And don’t talk about nebulous downstream process improvements, puh-lease. People want process improvements now, not some unidentified time in the future.

When a fly keeps banging its head against a pane of glass trying to get out of your house, it’s obvious what the fly needs is a different approach: an open window. The same is true in enterprise software. Software developers: stop bashing your heads on the change management window. Do something to your software so the users don’t need change management to want to use it.

The exciting news is that there are some people who are daring to do the undoable. Thingamy for example has the audacity to be challenging not only the rigid process-driven ERP mindset prevalent in the industry, but also how we do something as basic as accounting. Will they succeed? Who knows. But the more people who take Sig’s lead and try to re-invent enterprise software, the more chance we’ll have of getting those buyers all happily using their e-marketplaces.


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