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6 Questions That Tell You It’s Time for Software Innovation


By Micah Brandenburg
in Company Culture

Is your company ripe for software innovation? Technology is changing so fast that business leaders are regularly rethinking everything from what jobs will look like in the future to whether robots are going to replace humans in the workplace.

But if your employees are stuck with tools they hate (or systems that can’t support new tech), you’ll have a hard time catching the technology innovation wave.

Your business software serves as the foundation from which you could someday utilize possibilities like AI, machine learning, IoT, and every other up-and-coming technology. Or, it can be the barrier that keeps you from advancing to the forefront of business technology.

So how do you know if your current software is ready for an overhaul? Start with these six questions.

1. Is our software more than five years old?

Technology has evolved by quantum leaps over the past decade. Since 2008, we have seen rapid development in areas like cloud computing, big data, analytics, IoT, and machine learning. We’ve also seen the mainstream adoption of iPads, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, chatbots for business, remote work opportunities, and machine learning applications.

If your legacy software is more than five years old, chances are it either doesn’t have the functionalities needed to support innovations like these, or it has outdated and inefficient versions of them. That’s a problem because chances are also good that your competitors are already using some or all of these tools.

If you’re operating under the assumption that your ten-year-old software is still serving you well, it’s time to take a closer look at where you are, where your competitors are, and what changes you should make to stay at the front of the pack.

2. Do we have a solid software foundation for technology advancements?

Let’s say you’re convinced that your company needs new technology, but your stakeholders aren’t quite ready to throw out your legacy system and start over. Your boss wants to know why you can’t just purchase an AI solution or build a mobile app and integrate it with your current system.

Well, maybe you can. If your software can integrate with new technology and you have a solid tech foundation in place, it may be possible to add an additional layer on top of what’s already there.

But what if you don’t have an integrated data storage solution? What if your data is stored in unconnected silos throughout your company? What if your employees can’t do their jobs effectively because your software is painfully slow?

Before you can move forward with IoT, AI, or machine learning, you’ll need to start with software innovation to build a foundation from which you can launch cutting-edge technologies later.

3. Does our technology attract quality talent?

MobTop-notch employees want to work for top-notch companies. Attracting them often starts with evaluating your tech capabilities, especially if you are hiring for a tech-related position. Dell & Intel’s Future Workforce Study Global Report found that 42% of Millennials would quit a job because of substandard technology. One-third of employees say their personal tech is more advanced than tech at work, and they are increasingly dissatisfied with the capabilities they have on the job.

Does that mean you should rush out and invest in new software if you’re launching a hiring initiative? Not necessarily, but it’s worth considering. Your employees—especially the younger ones—expect your business software to work as smoothly as Lyft and Instagram and the other things they use every day, and if you’re behind, it’s a strike against you in the recruitment and retention departments.

4. Does our technology support our employees in their work?

Employee preferences are important, but not as important as meeting productivity and efficiency targets. As technology advances, there comes a tipping point where your legacy system creates more problems than it solves.  Another finding from the Dell and Intel study is that almost half of employees say administrative tasks and slow or glitchy software and devices are the biggest time-wasters at work.

Here are a few red flags that your software is hindering progress:

Your employees use multiple workarounds for business processes

If your software either can’t perform a needed task or takes too long to navigate, employees will come up with alternative methods. This may be OK once in awhile, but every workaround is chipping away at your productivity by adding to the length of time it takes to get the job done. Workarounds also remove traceability and make your company more dependent on individual employees, because standard business processes aren’t being followed.

Employees store data offline

If your database doesn’t store the information employees need for their jobs or they can’t access the data they need when they need it, they may begin squirreling information away in spreadsheets and offline files. That makes it even harder for others in the department to access the right data. And forget being able to keep data current—everyone has an individual version, and you’re inevitably going to run into data conflicts.

It’s difficult to support remote work

Telecommuting has increased in popularity by 115% since 2005. Today, nearly 4 million employees spend half their working hours off site. And more than half have jobs that could be compatible with remote work. As working from home (or from Starbucks) becomes more common, it’s also gaining desirability for employees. If your workforce is ready to move that direction but your software can’t handle it, it may be time for an upgrade.

5. Does our software support our current business needs?

As your business grows, so do your software requirements. Maybe you have recently expanded to multiple states or to an international market. Maybe you want to add ecommerce to your website or you need a better supply chain solution.

Sometimes you can solve these problems by adding a best-of-breed solution on top of your current software (or building your own). But these kind of portal solutions usually serve as stopgaps that solve one particular problem but not overarching issues. And portal can’t give you flexibility to prepare for future needs, not just what you need today.

6. Is our software giving our IT team nightmares?

Companies with old software systems often have just a few IT people who were around for the initial programming and deployment. If those people leave, your IT staff may have a nightmare on their hands as they try to reverse engineer the code in order to modify the system. It may also be difficult to find new employees who have the credentials needed to support your old software—especially as your ERP or other software solutions age.

Even if you have adequate internal support, old systems often lack external support from the vendor or developer. Security patches or feature upgrades will require in-house development, which may result in software bugs, downtime, or security vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

If your answers to these questions have revealed an urgent need for change, what’s next?

First, tap the brakes. You don’t have to overhaul everything at once. Most innovations take time and can be tackled in stages.

Second, build a strong business case. Clearly present your business needs, software requirements, and cost/benefit research to gain stakeholder support. Software innovations should drive measurable ROI, just like any other capital expenditure.

Third, create a plan. Not every company will need to scrap the old system and start from scratch. You may be able to update what you have or add new capabilities to your current system. If you do need to upgrade, talk to an experienced developer about your needs and objectives.

At Worthwhile, our goal is to help you do more with software. We’ll help you improve your ROI and lower costs by building software that makes your entire organization more efficient.

If you’re ripe for software innovation, or if you’re trying to figure out if it’s the right time, we’ll help you take the next step.

Micah Brandenburg
Micah leads our sales and consulting teams. His passion is enabling business strategy with technology solutions.
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