Factors of software acceptance
Does your company have software that is not used to the intended extent? Software that has turned out to be inappropriate in terms of your requirements or those of your colleagues and employees? If not, then your company is an exception. Congratulations. In most organisations there are programs that are not used or only used to a limited extent by those involved. How do such situations arise, such a lack of acceptance? On what factors does software acceptance depend and what can you do to increase the acceptance of existing software?
Causes for lack of software acceptance
Can you imagine that your organisation consciously chooses the third best solution on the market and buys it? Of course not. Nevertheless, it often happens that the desired benefits are not realised with the chosen software and that employees are not relieved. What is the reason for this? Perhaps the right software was not chosen after all, is it due to the unwillingness of the employees or has the organisation ignored important aspects?
There are six factors that influence software acceptance:
- the software selection process,
- the software implementation,
- the software itself,
- the individual employee,
- the group of users and
- the management.
The software selection process
10 steps is the process of software selection, but often the second step is done before the first step. In the first step of a software selection process, companies have to deal with the respective initial situation, the challenges to be mastered, the general conditions, the requirements of the users and the criteria as well as the weighting of the criteria. It is not enough if the task is: “We need a tool with which we can work agilely across locations. Take a look at the two market leaders and then buy the cheaper solution.” Such a task ignores practically every step of a defined software selection. Of course, this example is exaggerated. Isn’ it? Are you actually asked for your opinion when procuring software that you should subsequently use? Or does your supervisor know your needs and challenges so well that he doesn’t have to ask you? Maybe it is enough for the superior to know what his superior wants? At any rate, acceptance cannot develop in this way.
The software implementation
The more complex the process of software selection is, the more costs are incurred. The clarification of internal needs, the initial market analysis, the collection of manufacturer information, the analysis of potential solutions – all of these can easily lead to a lot of work. In addition, there are the actual license as well as maintenance and servicing costs. It is therefore not uncommon for companies to try to minimise the costs of software implementation. The scope of the software launch depends on the type of software to be introduced and the application scenario. The implementation of software for a single workstation is of course less complicated than the implementation of a solution for teams addressing different roles. In the course of an optimal software implementation, organisations therefore have to integrate users, define goals, define responsibilities and actively control the execution. If this does not succeed to the desired extent, participants are overloaded, resistance, moods and feedback are ignored, a lack of acceptance is the immediate consequence.
“The software flies you to Mars, makes you a cup of coffee and does your tax return.” Some marketing promises sound too good to be true. In addition, there are the magical presentations of sales professionals and the individual arts of consultants who use software features in a way that requirements can still be considered met. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to a situation in which, despite structured software selection and targeted software implementation, essential user challenges are not mastered. But even if the software actually meets all requirements, there are pitfalls: Is the software adaptable and who is allowed and able to customise the software? How does the interaction with existing solutions take place when the software has been adapted? How does the interaction between two solutions work when there is an update for a program? And do extensions still work after upgrades? In addition, there is another elementary aspect: performance. Software that doesn’t work as fast as users expect cannot be accepted. It even plays a subordinate role whether the performance is actually slow or only felt slow; often users – regardless of the number of operations an application performs – become restless after a few seconds of waiting. Waiting times lead to dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction to lack of acceptance.
If you use a software, then you are the most important factor for the software acceptance. You decide for personal reasons how well you like a software and whether you like to use it regularly. The magic word for this is: benefit. You must experience a concrete benefit through the use of the software. If your work is made easier, if you can produce results faster or better, then you will accept the software. Your concrete advantage is decisive. Not the advantage defined by the management for “all areas”, not the advantage for your superior, who will gain a better overview from now on, nor the advantage for a colleague, who can do his tasks better with the software. Of course, it is important that you are able to use the software well. But be careful: even if a software offers concrete advantages for an individual employee, he or she can reject it. If an organisation decides in favour of a particular solution and thus against a recommendation from an employee, the latter will only use the software in a few cases without prejudice. Employees who were responsible for procuring software to be replaced by the new software could also be critical. And employees whose skills in dealing with existing solutions will be less needed in the future will not always rejoice.
The group of users
Why are user groups important for software acceptance? Like a single employee, a group of employees has goals, desires, worries, or fears. Does the implementation of the new software result in restructuring processes or do tasks even disappear completely? Must employees and groups fear for their jobs? In addition, there are always conflicts between user groups and company departments. If one group supports a solution, another group can simply reject it on principle. Fictitious discussions about the suitability of the software follow, arguments and judgments are exchanged, but in reality the software itself is not even the beginning of the problem. Communication and collaboration between the groups is disrupted. Software acceptance cannot develop in this way. Of course, there are always proponents and opponents of new tools within groups. Organisations should pay attention to an appropriate integration of the user groups already during the selection and implementation of the software, because it is difficult to find or define arguments and advantages for groups afterwards.
Frequently, companies complain that software does not offer the desired benefits and is therefore not used by the users. Here, cause and effect are confused. It would be better if management were to ask itself which prerequisites are important for a targeted use of the new software. Do users know why a new software is being introduced and what its goals are? Who are the internal contact persons and how is the communication with the supplier carried out? Has a priority been defined for the implementation of the solution in comparison to the current activities of the contact persons and the users? How important is the launch of the software compared to parallel projects? How can user feedback be institutionalised? There are many questions of this kind. When investing in software on a larger financial scale, the answers to such questions become more and more essential. Here the management is challenged to put the users in the center of their considerations. Only if they use the new software to the desired extent can the hoped-for business benefit be achieved.
Increase the software acceptance of existing tools
What can companies do if existing software is not used to the desired extent? Of course you can search for an alternative software and go through the processes of software selection and implementation. This causes efforts and costs. But first you should find out the reasons for the rejection of a tool. The following questions can help:
- How good is the performance of the software?
- How intuitive is the software to use?
- How well does the interaction with other tools work?
- How modern is the software, is the user interface still up-to-date and are the current versions available to all employees?
- Were the users not properly trained and is there a possibility of subsequent training?
- Are internal contact persons available in case of problems?
- Is it possible to adapt the software to the actual processes and have mistakes been made during configuration?
If such and similar questions identify problems, companies are given the opportunity to do something about them. They can talk to their suppliers and manufacturers and encourage them to improve the software. They can improve internal support and establish key users. They can motivate open user discussions and thus promote exchange within the organisation. If none of these measures works, the search for a new solution can still begin; but then with a fresh insight into what the company should do better from now on.
It is important for companies to place users at the centre of their considerations. The more users and user groups work with software, the more important it becomes to deal with the desired use. If a software offers concrete advantages for the individual user, he will use it gladly and regularly. However, since the challenges facing users are also changing, communication within the organisation is a permanent task. This can lead to adaptations and enhancements of existing solutions, which in turn focus on the users. It is important for companies to learn from their own past. In this way they can avoid the repetition of mistakes and this saves efforts and costs. If a company decides to purchase new software, it should integrate users at an early stage, clearly define goals and create the setting for a successful implementation and continuous use. A final question helps here: How do users, user groups and the entire organisation notice that the new software has made a positive difference?
Head of Marketing, t2informatik GmbH
Michael Schenkel is a graduate business economist and is passionate about marketing. He has a certificate for excellent hiking characteristics, Odenwaldtour in classes 6a/6b and since 1984 the Seahorse. He likes to blog about requirements engineering, project management, stakeholders and marketing. And he will certainly be delighted if you meet him in the real world for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake or for a virtual get-together.