Applying five-year thinking to business software

‘Where do you want to be in five years?’

In businesses and our careers, we readily take a long-term view and plan ahead. We apply this to the majority of areas, and those who don’t see the bigger picture are often labelled short-sighted or reckless.

Take the example of hiring a new member for your team. A responsible manager would plan what they want them to work on, arrange inductions to get them up to speed in their first few weeks and introduce them to the rest of the team—and get all this in place before they join. Then they’d set goals, track progress, conduct performance reviews, build training plans and seek to help their development.

And this isn’t an isolated example. In most aspects of work life we make sure we have goals, objectives and ways to measure success. We strive to continuously achieve and improve, whether personally or as a unit. However, despite applying this level of scrutiny to ourselves, our teams and our organizations, many don’t do the same for their enterprise software.

Measuring the metrics that matter

In our recent Digital Adoption Pulse survey of 500+ business leaders, a stunning majority told us that they found it difficult to measure key business outcomes, such as IT support ticket reduction, improved productivity and data quality. In fact, only 10% had no difficulty with this, yet these outcomes are exactly what the business wanted to see from new cloud-based technologies.

Just as with hiring people, being able to set goals and measure outcomes for business processes in cloud-based technologies is key to being able to drive improvements and realize value. That makes these difficulties particularly concerning.

If one single employee was responsible for 80% of all IT support tickets most organizations would be able to measure this and quickly intervene. Whereas, if a single SaaS application is responsible for 80% of tickets the picture is often less clear.

To ensure a software is succeeding in a business, you need to be able to measure key adoption metrics and drive a process of continuous improvement towards the business goals.

The dangers of short-termism

While the majority of respondents in our survey claim to have identified measures of success, despite the difficulties discussed above, most only measure the success of cloud-based technologies for the first 6 months after implementation. In fact, only 5% said they maintain measurement after 3 years, yet they are still paying for the technology and users are still facing many of the same challenges.

One key recommendation from our report is to look beyond the new and avoid short-termism. As we can see from the results, organizations often think of digital adoption of a new cloud-based technology as a one-off event. This is usually focused on a go live where you bring everyone up to speed, only for them to forget about it months later.

The problem with this mindset, aside from the forgetting curve and the problems of one-off training, is that employees don’t stay forever. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the US the average employee has a tenure of 4 years and the average turnover rate in 2019 was 45%.

So if you think about where you want to be in years rather than at go-live, and the top goals around reducing IT support tickets and increasing productivity, you quickly realize you are stuck in a continuous loop and not actually making progress. New employees face exactly the same challenges as the old ones did years ago.

Think about your software like we think about careers

While thorough use cases, training initiatives and choosing best of breed applications can help initially lift productivity, products like our digital adoption solution can support software adoption for the long term and align with your business goals for enduring success.

Just as you shouldn’t take a job, make a hire or manage existing staff without thinking about goals and the future, we shouldn’t be doing this with software.

So, the next time you look to implement or improve the use of a business application, I’d suggest you think of the classic interview question.

“Where do you want to be in five years?”

Until you can answer this, support the ambition and measure it, you won’t be able to realize the full potential of your platform, and will be stunting the growth of your business.

Insight by

Daniel Gripton

Insight by

Daniel Gripton