We discuss the barriers to successful adoption with Forbes columnist Gene Marks

What are the main barriers to successful adoption of SaaS?

We discuss the barriers to successful adoption with Forbes columnist Gene Marks

We are passionate about highlighting the amount of money businesses, in a variety of sectors, throw away on poorly implemented and underused software. We wanted to speak to others about what they think the main barriers to adoption are – our first chat is with Gene Marks.

Gene is a small business expert, author and columnist with regular slots in the Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc. magazine. He regularly features on business segments on FOX News, CNBC and MSNBC.

What would you say is the biggest barrier to software adoption?

GENE: The biggest barrier to adoption is people, not software. Many people get the idea for new software from the back of in-flight magazines – not a great deal of thought goes into the software chosen.

It’s not about the tech, it’s about the people. It’s absolutely 100% important to get a figurehead. We have about 600 active clients and we implement CRM systems. The clients who succeed have one person in the middle, the power user, the admin, the owner, whatever you want to call them, and they are solely responsible for the database. That’s their job.

But again there’s a cost, either you’re hiring somebody or you’re paying somebody to do this.

And are those positions high paid, because of the responsibility that they come with?

GENE: It depends on the company and what they do. I see some companies do really well with an admin person, a smart cookie who is not afraid of making mistakes and has got the backing off the boss. You don’t have to hire a six figure person to do this – you can still make it work with someone at a lower level as long as they’re the right person, with the right attitude

Let’s talk about popular software that is underused – what do you think is the most useful and underutilised Office programme, within the whole suite?

GENE: I can actually say that the most underutilised feature in Office is the whole of Office because most of my clients are guilty of, and so am I and probably you, you get Office that is full of unbelievable collaboration tools like Skype, like Sharepoint. It’s just as collaborative as Google Docs. If you get Office 365, and it’s implemented the right way, with the right training, and the right amount of focus on its tools, when people say it’s not as collaborative as Google Docs. I mean,  Google is great – they’re all good tools, it’s just that people usually say that because they’re ignorant, because they don’t know. They’re not aware – even you, I mean you write, you’re in the technology world, and you’re saying can you recommend an Office feature – why don’t you know that? The reason is cos you’re busy doing your job, it’s kind of tough to learn but it’s all there.

It is kind of like driving a car with air con, radio, 4 wheel drive, you think I’m not going to push that button cos I don’t know what it does and I don’t want to break down. People are like that with Office – people don’t know how much they have that they are not utilising, and my advice is go online, to LinkedIn, or the Microsoft site, you cough up you know, a little bit, and bring in a certified trainer. Let them come in and give you a soup to nuts overview of everything that the Office system that you own does, give them two or three hours to really tell you here’s everything that you own, and then you pick out the features in it that you want to focus on and do better with, and you ignore the rest. Because you’re not going to use it all, but I can guarantee that you should be using a lot more of it. We all are guilty, and it’s funny because you already own this software – you should take advantage of it.

In an article for Entrepreneur you mentioned two Office features that people may not be aware of – Delve and Sway. Can you talk about those?

GENE: Delve and Sway are new additions to Office 365, they provide different things. One of them provides a new way to make presentations, it integrates the web and video, sort of like Powerpoint on steroids. However it’s not…Microsoft hates it when you connect and compare it to Powerpoint, but it really is a presentation tool, and Delve is your internal insights tool, kind of based on what your activity is and what you’re writing about, who you’re communicating with, where you are searching, what content you’re looking for. It delivers to you both external and internal content, that would be of interest to you. It trawls internally, all your other Office users, if they’re having a conversation about something, if they’re working on something that might be of interest, based on keywords.

So we don’t use it in my company and we should – like I said before, I’m as guilty as anybody else in the stuff that we’re not doing. But I can tell you one thing, I mean I talk about all the different things that you can use in Office, but you know, my best clients just pick the things that give them the best return on investment. You know they use maybe 30 to 40% of Office instead of the usual 10 to 20%, which means they’re still not using 60 to 70% of what Office does. You don’t have to use all these tools, but you could probably be using a lot more.

So when it comes to software in general, what is the most under utilised and most commonly not used properly software that you see?

GENE: I mean you have to take this with a grain of salt, because it’s what I sell, but CRM applications, customer relationship manager applications. It blows me away how many companies don’t use them, and even the ones that do have them don’t use them very well. So CRM applications, so we’ve just talked about Microsoft – Microsoft has just announced that in its business edition it’s coming out with the Outlook Sales Manager I think it’s called, Customer Manager, will be included shortly in the Business Edition. That’ll be part of the price that you pay, and I can guarantee that nobody is going to use it. And even if they do try to use it, they won’t use it very well – which is an opportunity for me to teach people how to use it.

So Microsoft has this software which integrates, and outside of Microsoft you have these great low cost CRM applications like Insightly, Zoho, you know they’re very inexpensive and can integrate with any office system you already have and are excellent. They are very underused, if used at all.

So if they’re the most under utilised things, what’s the main issues of under utilisation and what are the main benefits of doing things properly?

GENE: Well the biggest issue is lack of understanding as to what these things do, so therefore there’s a lack of desire to invest time and money in them. And what they do, and I’ll use the CRM system as an example, if a CRM system is used the right way, it makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks, it makes sure that nobody in your company looks like a dope.

The people not using stuff properly are the weakest link, it affects everybody. If everyone was using it, you’d make sure there was follow up to all the people in your database, whoever calls into your office whoever picks up the phone, you can see “oh yeah Kimberley just spoke to so and so a week ago”. You’re all on the same page. And the other thing is about CRM systems is that they create a significant and tangible value so if you’re ever looking to sell your company or bring on an investor, it’s a big data world, and people are interested in that kind of data, and they will pay you for it.

So it’s a big deal, and a lot of people just don’t seem to appreciate that. But it’s growing.

Do you think that companies fail to communicate the benefits of SaaS to staff?

GENE: They do. But I think more so than communicating the benefits, companies fail to enforce the rules. And I think that the staff, your people, they’re not idiots. Once people start using something, they’ll see the benefits for themselves, it’s just more people than not need to be led to the well and shown where to drink, and then made to drink, before they’re like, oh wait this water tastes pretty good and I kind of need it. So, after a while, people will realise the benefits for themselves. In all honesty, all of this stuff I’m talking about, so CRMs, Office, I didn’t know the benefit of this stuff until I started doing it myself. Being made to do it, and then I was like, holy shit, this stuff is pretty great. You start realising that it really does provide a good usefulness. Spouting the benefits is well and good, but it’s like that everyone knows the benefits of losing weight, but who here has got the discipline to do it. Then they’re forced to do it, and start losing weight, and they think wow this is great, you’re right, I do feel better.

I think it’s a matter of telling your people, it’s not about the people it’s about the company, and if you are, as an owner or an executive of a company, if you’re convinced that it’s going to be a big benefit to the company, then your job is to pull your people kicking and screaming to go in the direction that you know is best for them, and, more importantly, the company.

So you don’t have to waste a whole lot of time persuading them – if you’re persuaded, you just have to tell them to do their jobs. If whoever is running your company, if they completely adopted the company’s culture and had these reports running out of it, and really said I really feel the benefits and see how this will increase the value of my company to everybody uses it, your boss would say everyone is using this and I don’t want to hear bullshit about people who aren’t.

This is what you need to do, and if you’re not doing it you’re not doing your job – and that’s a problem.

At some point, businesses reach a tipping point, I don’t know how often that happens, maybe infrequently, but that will happen enough and your boss or the owner of your company says this is stopping, everyone is logging your time, it’s costing too much money and causing too much hassle.