I heard it again. “It doesn’t work like our old software”. You work in this business long enough, and there are some standard catch phrases you tend to hear over and over again. “I thought it included…(fill in the blanks)” is one. “We don’t need any training. We’ll figure it out ourselves.” is another. But my favorite, without question, is the always lurking…wait for it…wait for it…”it doesn’t work like our old software”.
When I hear this, what I want to say is, “Of course it doesn’t work like your old software. That’s why you replaced your old software.” Naturally, I don’t say that out loud.
In general, when we implement SugarCRM or Sage MAS 90 or MAS 200, we’re replacing something. Gone are the days when we’re replacing pencil and paper or when MAS 90 or Sugar is the first software they will have ever used. We’re typically replacing a long-used, heavily customized, custom system or a lower end software that’s lacking in controls, expandability, and features like Quickbooks or Peachtree or ACT!. In this most recent example, we replaced Quickbooks. We replaced Quickbooks, because its inventory capabilities could no longer effectively keep up with the demands of the business – multiple warehouses, tracking work in process, having controls for managing inventory, customizable reporting, etc. Our client’s employees were complaining because it now takes more steps to do things like adjusting inventory on hand, managing production, adjusting erroneous invoices, and that anytime they wanted to change something “it just takes too long, takes too many procedures, and requires too many printouts”.
I get it. They’re not wrong. Everything now does take longer.
The thing I had to explain to the CEO and CFO is that even though it was uncomfortable for them to hear their employees complain about the new system, these weren’t bad things in the big picture. In the old system, if an inventory quantity on hand was wrong, an employee could just manually override the number on the screen and change it. No doubt this is incredibly easy and straightforward…something that is desired in accounting and ERP systems. However, is it good? I argued that the new process, having to enter and post an “adjustment”, while more taxing, is certainly better for “the business”. In the old system, if an invoice was issued erroneously, an employee could go in at any time and change the invoice and reprint it. In the new system, you have to issue a credit memo to reverse the erroneous part and either generate a new invoice or just send the credit memo. Again, while this is a burden for the employees, it’s a huge safeguard for the business.
One of the things the employees complained about in the old system was the fact that they could never trust the inventory values, because they never really knew where they came from. Now, that’s not an issue, because there’s a transaction trail for the quantity on hand for every item. The price for that is extra steps. In almost every example the employees provided for why they were frustrated with the new software, the answer was that there are more steps, because they provide more controls, a greater audit trail, and allow for greater detail to be available for reporting.
It’s one thing when new systems are implemented and they don’t meet the needs of the business. It’s quite another when employees just have to get used to doing things “a new way”. To survive these encounters, it’s especially critical that upper management (eg. the business owner, the CEO, the CFO, etc.) do a significant amount of communication with their team and also support the new software implementation. If the employees smell indecision or wavering among upper management, they may get together and make it difficult for the new implementation to be successful. In order to avoid this, we try to start with a project kick-off meeting with all interested parties where employee expectations are managed. In addition, consistent project status meetings and an unwavering attitude of support for the project will go a long way towards making the new software successful. We can’t completely do away with “it doesn’t work like our old software”, but we can try to add a second part to the statement “…and we’re so glad it doesn’t”….