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When your Software is TOO Good

I was recently called by a potential client who was looking to move from their existing software to another AMS package. As I talked with them, I learned that they're using what I consider to be a really good AMS package, but they are not happy with it. They find it too cumbersome, not flexible enough, and hard to understand. What's interesting about this particular situation is that the association received the software for free. The challenge they face is that they don't want to spend a lot for a new AMS package. The one they have would be way out of their price range if they had to buy it a street value.

The question is: What should they do? Should they trash a really good product and try to find a less-expensive product that staff finds easier-to-use? Or should they work with the vendor to try to learn how to use the system better? Or is there yet another option they haven’t considered?

What would you advise?

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3 Comments on "When your Software is TOO Good"

Patrick Headley - 21 May 2007 Reply

I believe the answer depends on a couple things. 1) Since this AMS software is so feature packed, are there one or more people at the organization who can administer it? 2) Is there any way that the organizaiton can truely take advantage of what they have? Here is what I would ask the customer: 1) Can they take advantage of the features that will work for them and ignore the rest without causing problems in the overall functionality of the software? Even though the software is a fine package, is the customer going to be navigating through layers of UI just to get to what they need? 2) For their purposes, does it make sense to learn and use the software? Does the software require so much additional data input or administration that the client is going to loose money due to lost production? 3) What is training and maintenance going to cost as opposed to a smaller application or a custom built app? I use to work for a company that got a real great deal on a software package. The decission maker at this company was real big on getting great deals. The problem was that the software and the development environment was antiquated. It took several people programming on the system every date just to get a limited amount of data back out of the system. While the situation sounds different in the case of your customer, I would definately say no to using the product if it's going to cost in lost production or excessive amounts of training for what the customer needs or excissive amounts to keep the software up to date based on the customer's size and needs. Another way to answer the question would be to suggest not using the feature packed application, even if it's free if a database that has just a few tables and a simple UI will do the trick for the forseeable future.

Katie Laird - 22 May 2007 Reply

Interesting question - I would hope that the software provider was as generous with their training opportunities (on and offline) as they are with their AMS. In my experience, a little training and open-mindedness goes a long, long way. Sometimes just sitting down with troubled members and identifying their specific issues or concerns can help clear the air - especially if the application is so full-bodied that some desired utilities or options might be overlooked. If it's a complicated piece of software, it might be too daunting to try and understand on their own. Nobody likes feeling frustrated or stupid, so perhaps a little initial hand holding is required to make it a go. (Disclosure: I work for a company that develops an AMS application, so am all too familiar with the culture/paradigm shift that accompanies using such a tool)

Wes Trochlil - 24 May 2007 Reply

These are both good suggestions. In the end, the association decided to scrap their existing software and look for new software. I hope they find what they're looking for.

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