Every so often the question comes up which IT and business is expected to answer. “How much of the features of the ERP/CRM/SCM/… do we use ?” How do we increase this to gain the most of from the investment made ! And everyone gets down to analyzing the feature set once again, painstakingly attempting to move beyond the standard 30% number in the good implementations. Many CIOs struggled in the last year or so to provide a rationale or undertook the task to improve the usage. The expectation needs some careful analysis to understand why this question comes up periodically and specially in difficult times when other investments are scarce.
When organizations invest large budgets into any commercially available standard software solutions, the expectations set by vendors, IT team and occasionally the business project lead tend to indicate that upon implementation, the enterprise will transform itself from current state to a highly optimized state giving it a significant advantage in the industry. This overselling of benefits continues even today many decades after the 3-letter solutions entered the IT arena.
Any large generic solution coupled with industry specific templates or add-on modules will be feature rich in its endeavor to address all types of scenarios irrespective of whether they occur with your specific organization or not. Based on the specifics of every company, some of these are executed, while others are deemed not relevant. Thus starts the journey of partial usage, which is accepted during the project. Over time, the vendor continues to evolve the solution based on customer feedback and industry evolution, and companies may adopt incremental functionality or not.
I believe that CIOs should draw parallels from other commercial products to educate the business on why usage will always remain sub-optimal when measured as a percentage of total available features. An example could be the humble cell phone which people buy based on new features that are added faster than most of us can comprehend. 90% of the users including the same corporate teams, who berate the IT solutions inadequate usage, do the same with these devices. Or move the lens towards television sets, which we all buy after careful evaluation to only use the most basic features.
We keep on upgrading office productivity solutions like word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools, but rarely evolve beyond the earlier feature usage. Why do we then run after every new version ? To remain current and compatible off course; can the same apply to our ERP/CRM/… solutions ?