It is a well-known fact that software projects are more likely to fail than hardware projects. What is less widely recognized is why software projects fail more frequently. In many respects, software and hardware projects develop in similar ways, but when it comes to implementation, the path to success is entirely different.
When one rolls out a new machine, there is typically a long lead up time. Indeed, by the time a new piece of hardware hits the market, there has generally been years of testing and user experience has been fully taken into account. By contrast, software products, which are produced far more often and quickly, frequently hit the market with only minimal user experience research and of course, there is generally little time to prepare consumers for the arrival of new software products. What does this mean? All too often it means that potentially effective software products fail because consumers simply don’t know how to implement and use the applications to their full potential.
There are effectively three ways to mitigate the failure of software projects. First, software companies can ramp up their customer service support. Second, they can handle installation and maintenance themselves. Finally, software companies can embrace extended enterprise learning and put both the installation and maintenance of the software into the hands of the users. But which approach works best and which approach is most cost efficient? As explored below, when software companies embrace extended enterprise learning, there are two major benefits: cost and access to user experience data that can in turn drive future research and development.
The Pros, Cons and Cost of Increasing Customer Support
The first option is to simply increase one’s customer support to ensure that anyone attempting to implement a new software application has the help needed to execute the implementation. This can and does work, but it also has limits and comes at a high cost to companies. First, few software companies can provide 24/7 assistance and if one wants to tap into a global market, 24/7 support is a must. Second, finding and retaining knowledgeable customer service representatives is a challenge. Notably, customer service representatives have among the highest churn of any category of workers.
The Pros, Cons and Cost of Providing Technicians
Back when Xerox machines were one of the most important office technologies, Xerox came up with an innovative plan—with every machine, one would also get a dedicated Xerox technician. The plan worked. Xerox’s success for many decades had much to do with the company’s dedicated technicians. Of course, while assigning technicians to pricey pieces of hardware may be a viable business model (in the 1960s, a single Xerox machine costs thousands of dollars), it is simply not viable when it comes to software applications. The bottom line is that in the vast majority of cases, sending technicians out to install and troubleshoot software application problems is simply unsustainable.
The Pros, Cons and Cost of Extended Enterprise Learning
This brings us to our third option: training your customers to install, troubleshoot and maintain the software on their own. At the level of cost, there is no question that this is the best option for any software company. Across sectors, companies that invest in training their customers report greater increases in revenue. When it comes to software companies, the financial return is even higher. In short, when customers report easy implementation and maintenance of a software application or platform, they are more likely to continue using the application or platform over time.
But this raises the question: What is the best way to train your customers? After all, you likely will never meet most of them face to face. The most effective and cost efficient way to train your customers is to adopt a learning management system (LMS). This will effectively enable you to roll out a training program online and even via your customer’s mobile devices with minimal overhead.
While cost is a major consideration, adopting an LMS to implement an extended enterprise learning initiative has other benefits. With an LMS, one can gain access to data previously out of reach, including day-to-day user experience. This in turn enables software developers to make the very type of modifications required to ensure their software applications are as user friendly as possible.
What’s the take away? Extended enterprise learning is cost effective and holds the potential to research and development too.