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The five factors of software success

The five factors of software success

Software success comes to companies who use their information technology to drive process and inform decisions. There fore five factors of software success that will help you to capture the benefits of your data and technology.

Software helps businesses is many ways. When staff are empowered with the right data, time and money is saved. When technology is used to transform outdated processes the experience of your customers becomes easier and more satisfying. With internet and cloud software, a sales person can communicate with customers anywhere, at any time. With the technologies of today, flexibility should be standard practice. Businesses that are smart with software gain a significant advantage in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

Unlocking the potential of software

Despite the opportunities, there are few businesses who capture the full potential of computer software. The problems of software come in many forms. A common mistake is when people use software to do something for which it is not designed. For example, using Microsoft Excel as a database or critical information store. Just because you have a hammer, doesn’t mean that everything is a nail! A lack of technical experience is also a common cause for organisations to create processes that create mistakes. Also, when management is authoritarian, people don’t challenge the status quo and over time, things only ever get worse.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Good news is that you can overcome these problems by balancing these five factors of software success:

  1. Usefulness: The software enables you to do tasks in ways not otherwise possible or as effective.
  2. Usability: The software is easy-to-use, enjoyable and generally free of effort.
  3. Availability: The software is documented and supported for example by help desk, training or on-line groups.
  4. Alignment: The policies, procedures and processes of your business align with the functions of the software.
  5. Authorisation: Those responsible for using the software have the necessary authority to do so effectively.

Usefulness defines software success

Software that is useful enables people to do things they could not otherwise do. It enhances job performance. It is true that the oldest commercial software products ooze with usefulness. Microsoft Excel is a classic example, so too Adobe Photoshop and Winzip. These tools have been around since before the Internet and they remain popular for good reason. If your task is numeric, graphical or requires file compression, these products for each respective task, are exceptionally valuable. Usefulness is the primary factor that determines the value of software.

Usability underpins software success

Usability means a system does as it is expected. This factor is all about the user experience or UX, for short. It is less about the system’s functions, and more about how easy and fun it is to use. Usability means things like colour, shape, language  and font. Usability recognises not what people what to do, but how they wish to do it. When it comes to usability, you cannot go past products created by Apple. As a company, the focus they place on usability design is second to none. As such, the iPhone and iPad and their highly usable apps are transforming entire industries.

Availability is people helping people

Availability is the third characteristic of software success. It refers to the products and services that support the end user to gain best use from the technology. For example, user guides, video tutorials and help desk. Availability is also about people learning how to use the tools. It is about having the support they need, when they need it. This includes not just the end-user, but also salespeople, helpdesk staff, vendors and/or an online developer community. The availability of products and people that can support you in using your software will significantly contribute to your success.

Alignment enables great things

The software marketplace has matured a lot since the 1990s. Today, there are thousands of digital tools available for business in every industry. Each vendor promising to solve all your business problems.  However, commercial software however is one-size fits all. Yet, every business is unique in some way.  Therefore there will always be a mismatch between your business and your software. Alignment means you must match your software platforms with your people and equally, vice versa. For zero extra cost, most business can gain a lot simply by changing their process to align better with their systems. For a small cost, a little staff training can also make a big difference.

You might be surprised at what you can achieve simply by asking, how can this business use this software better?

Authority is freedom to succeed

To get most out of your data and technology it is essential to match responsibility with authority. For counter-example, when access to information is too restrictive it prevents sharing and trust between teams. This creates information silos where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. This is a classic killer of innovation and team culture. When fear drives your software decision process, be assured that you will create more problems than you solve.

Software success is a journey

These five factors of software success interact ways that mean you can never achieve the best of all at once. There are always trade-offs to be made. Change is always apparent. The secret for getting the best from your data and software is balance. Software success is a journey of business transformation. Once that requires you to make continuous improvement an everyday practice. Courage and collaboration is paramount.

You ability to balance these five factors of software success will determine the benefits you capture from today’s information technologies.

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Carl Sudholz is the founder at AGContext and specialist in the integration of information technology within organisations. He holds two degrees, is a certified Business Analyst and a Director of the Australia Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Carl’s expertise and experience spans 15 years serving public, private and non-for-profit organisations to take control over technology.