Do you work with any “Old School” business people? Chances are you do. After all, many of the people in power in many organizations are very “old school” in their mindsets towards life and especially business. I was reminded of this just the other day when meeting with a potential client. We got in to a conversation about implementing new software solutions for their business. They were overwhelmed with the idea of switching to a new software platform. They kept saying things like “this is a 6 figure investment” and, “this involves consultants and months and months of transition time hell”. For someone of my generation, this completely blows me away. I’ve grown up using software systems and have gone through many, many different software upgrades or “switches” throughout the years. These types of things are easy for me. I guess I just get it and they don’t right??
I don’t think that is necessarily the case. I think the real problem is real world experience. While my mind tells me that these older executives should be on the same level as me, the truth is that they aren’t. For them, any type of software implementation in the past required a large capital investment, a strong internal IT Team, probably a consultant or two (from the company selling the software or otherwise), and weeks or months of headache. Many times these software transitions resulted in the loss of employees who couldn’t deal with the stress of it all. Additionally, if they made the wrong choice (which how would they know until they really started using it), they were stuck for years in some type of contract. After realizing this, it is no wonder this particular client had such a bad outlook on new software. The last time they had to upgrade was probably years ago or even decades. They would rather keep what they have now – even given its limitations – than risk making the wrong decision and spending money in the wrong place.
I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to go through this type of software upgrade hell. I too would hate it! The big problem of course is that it is NOT THAT COMPLICATED any more. Software is hosted now. You don’t need a dedicated IT person or staff to help you host your systems. You don’t need to wait for weeks or months to update or customize your system. These things are instantaneous now and give the controls to the user directly. Software companies increasingly don’t lock you in to long term contracts either. Most SaaS model companies charge by the month, and don’t have anything locking you in past the 30 days you pay in advance each month for the service. Additionally, many of these companies don’t even charge a setup fee so you have pretty much zero up front capital investment to make! But of course the best benefit of all is that with a model like this, it gives companies a chance to really evaluate the software they are about to purchase (or more like “rent” in this case). If they use it for a month and don’t like it, the most money they are out is the $100 or $200 (or whatever) they spent for that month of service.
So in this particular case, the client was looking at investing in a software program called MasterBuilder by Sage. This program is used in the construction industry to manage estimating, track costs & materials, invoicing & reporting. When you go to their website there isn’t even a place to find out what the price of the software is. I don’t know about you, but I generally take this as a bad sign. If not a bad sign, at least a sign that says “this software is at least 5 figures”. The client had used this in the past and was now facing the reality of needing to upgrade or look at another solution. I recommended that she check out a software I’ve written about before called Cashboard. This is a hosted solution and offers many of the same benefits that MasterBuilder does. However, the cost for this software?? FREE. Yes, the software is free to try and you can keep using it indefinitely for free as long as you only invoice one client per month. If you decide to upgrade to unlimited invoices and all of the features, the cost is $10 per month + $5 per month per extra employee. They also charge .25 cents per invoice. So, even if you have 20 employees and send out 100 invoices a month, your total cost for 12 months of service will be $1,560. BUT there are no long term contracts, no hard processes to learn (It really is EXTREMELY easy to use), you can virtually eliminate paper by sending invoices electronically (or through their integration with the USPS) and you can accept payments for your invoices online AUTOMATICALLY. Plus, upgrades are included. You don’t have to go for years and years on the “old version” and deal with all the pains of each version upgrade.
Of course in the end this client is going to have to make their own decision on what works best for their company. While I advocate reducing the amount of man power and headache involved in day to day processes, I might be missing something important to their business I’m not taking in to account. My main purpose of this article/rant is to try and dispel the myth among all you “old schoolers” out there that software is expensive and hard to implement. Indeed, software is one of the easiest implementations a company can make in this age, and getting past this mindset can really help your organization prepare and thrive in this new digital age of business and life we live in.