Dark clouds of vendors are hanging over us

Do you listen to who uses your software?  Are you really listening to those who are responsible for the success of the project and your product? Or have you completely deprioritized your existing clients’ needs due to the constant push for new customers and revenue growth? Are you slamming customers onto the software without regard to their unique needs and befuddling and disappointing stakeholders and end users with lack of tangible results from their investment and hard work? Are you forcing new clients to compromise core objectives to accommodate overly optimistic go-live dates? Do you feel compelled to be a jack-of-all-trades and showcase feature parity with competitors hijacking your development roadmap leaving your product a mile wide and inch deep?

In my experience, the answers to these questions are now too often “Yes,” which is a strategy that is short sighted and sure to backfire. Bloated, hard-to-use software, rushed implementations, and low user satisfaction rates are not a recipe for success or growth. They are the recipe for failure. Cloud software vendors need to rethink their priorities and focus on change in the following areas.

Feature parity and one-upping your competition consumes development pipelines.

Rebalance priorities from adding new features to simplifying user experience.

It’s so easy to get caught up in a feature parity race and checking all the boxes on RFP responses that you completely neglect making the experience intuitive and creating the mobile-friendly experience that users desire. Your priorities are skewed toward taking orders while the needs of an existing, loyal user base are missed. The software gets bigger, more bloated, and harder to use. Users’ reject the software because the added features actually take them backward not forward. This alienates your users and lowers customer satisfaction. That consistently results in client losses over time.

Conversion of data in and out of the system is way too hard.

Step up to the plate and provide tools to make transforming data to and from your system fast and easy. 

Do vendors make it is hard to extract accurate and complete data from their system so they can’t easily be fired? Is conversion of data into a new system overly technical where it requires the use of expensive professional service resources just because the vendor wants the professional service revenue? Cloud based systems are often inherently inefficient and time consuming for data entry. Getting data into the cloud has been the Achilles heel of the industry. Vendors that do nothing to assist their users with data conversion features leave their customer between a rock and a hard place.

There is little focus and no vendor commitment to achieving the users’ desired outcomes and process improvement opportunities are ignored.

Truly engage as a partner ensuring that customers desired outcomes are fully met.

Once you’ve signed a contract with your cloud software vendor you’ve now begun a race to the finish line. Why is that? What is the rush? Is it because the vendor needs the client to go-live to recognize the revenue? Understanding user needs and business needs and then tweaking the software to meet those needs adds time and complexity to an implementation project. It’s faster and easier to ignore the uniqueness of each customer and conduct a vanilla implementation. Vanilla is what some Cloud software vendors push.

The result is an initial implementation with many missed opportunities for process improvement. Simply moving your current way of doing things over to a new system without thoughtful consideration of how the new system can be leveraged to improve things will likely perpetuate existing problems and inefficiency.  It is shame for Cloud vendors to railroad and marginalize users this way. It is not just a common courtesy, it is an obligation, for a vendor to ensure that their clientele isn’t hurried through implementation so that each client can get the most of their software investment.  As some claim Einstein said1, and as Rita Mae Brown wrote in Sudden Death, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”2

Cloud vendors would be smart to wise up and address some serious strategic problems that stem from their insatiable desire to add new clients at the expense of taking care of the ones they already have.

1 Becker, Michael. (2012 Nov. 13). Einstein on misattribution: ‘I probably didn’t say that. Becker’s Online Journal. Retrieved from http://www.news.hypercrit.net/2012/11/13/einstein-on-misattribution-i-probably-didnt-say-that/

2 Brown, Rita Mae. (1983). Sudden Death. (pp. 68) New York: Random House. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=QJj9VqInFyUC&pg

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