Organizations’ Inertia Versus Software Innovation

Organizations' Inertia Versus Software Innovation

Playing it safe isn’t what drives innovation in today’s constantly shifting digital economy. Here’s why preserving the status quo might be costing you. April 19, 2024 Marc Benioff once noted that “the only constant in the technology industry is change.” Indeed, few industries have witnessed as much rapid and disruptive transformation as software has over the past four decades. IT leaders have long wrestled with monolithic, on-prem software, a struggle that meant months of painstaking requirements gathering, opaque licensing terms, and deployment schedules that could stretch on for months. Once deployed, the enshrined solution would become deeply embedded in workflows and user habits. Then came the cloud and software as a service (SaaS) with its simplified pay-as-you-go model, which meant that any business could access innovative software without the hefty upfront investments. The SaaS model democratized access to technology, enabling even the smallest startups to leverage tools that were once the preserve of large corporations. Yet even in this new software paradigm where the cost of switching is less onerous, businesses struggle to embrace new solutions. This resistance to challenging the status quo often stems from our deep-seated cognitive biases as much as from the practical considerations. By clinging to the status quo, organizations effectively incur hidden costs due to a lack of innovation, slower response to market changes, and the inability to capitalize on technological advancements that could drive future growth. Overcoming Organizational Inertia Change can be a hard pill to swallow. Habits form and, over time, become ingrained. Change also brings uncertainty, and generally speaking, we humans are intrinsically risk averse. Think about the products and services you rely on every day and why, despite a frustrating experience, you might be reluctant to make a change. This hesitancy to embrace the new where the familiar is often preferred over the unknown, is what behavioral scientists refer to as ‘status quo bias’. Enterprise vendors are adept at embedding features into their products that make them ‘sticky,’ offering rich upfront incentives to secure initial sales such as including customized modules that integrate deeply with a company’s existing workflows. In theory, SaaS models, with their lower upfront costs, easier scalability, and more flexible contracts, should make it simpler for organizations to ‘lift and switch’ their applications and data to a new provider — but reality often tells a different story. Switching SaaS applications comes with its own set of challenges, both technical and behavioral. For instance, many organizations have made significant investments to tailor the solution to meet their specific needs. These customizations, while beneficial in optimizing the software’s functionality within the organization, can become a hindrance when transitioning to a new SaaS platform. Moreover, from a behavioral standpoint, user adoption of new software can be a significant hurdle. Employees accustomed to a particular interface or workflow may struggle with the transition to a new system, regardless of its potential benefits. 3 Tips for a Seamless Switch While the process of making a switch to a new solution will vary widely depending on the scope and complexity of the software, there are a few best practices that are common to all software migration initiatives that can help drive success: 1. Get planning: Laying the foundation for a seamless software migration hinges on comprehensive planning, ideally guided by an experienced project manager. A key aspect of this planning is gaining an in-depth understanding of dependencies and constraints specific to the organization’s IT environment, which will help inform decisions about which applications need to be installed or uninstalled during the migration. Checklists can also help identify potential operational hiccups: Is the documentation user-friendly? Are the video guides easy to understand? Addressing these types of questions upfront can streamline the transition process, minimize disruptions, and accelerate user adoption. 2. Start small: Adopting a “start small before going big” approach is essential in new software rollouts. The process typically begins with a planning and requirements-gathering phase, an evaluation of vendors that best meet those requirements, then moves into the design and customization phase to ensure the solution is well aligned with the organization’s short and long-term needs. The crucial testing phase involves evaluating all aspects of the software with a focus group of technical users to ensure functionality, security, and compatibility, as well as testing the migration itself on a small group of users. 3. Prioritize the experience: One of the main reasons migrations fail is not giving users enough time to adapt to new systems and workflows. While providing proper documentation and training to users is a vital step, it’s also important to consider the different ways in which people absorb new information. For example, experiential learners might prefer video tutorials or hands-on training sessions, while visual learners might retain information best by looking at diagrams and charts. Additionally, clear and consistent communication with users is key to ensuring they understand what changes will occur and when. Anyone who has spent time in IT is familiar with the axiom ‘no one ever got fired for hiring IBM’ — shorthand for ‘when in doubt, go with the safe bet that’s known to all.’ But playing it safe isn’t what drives innovation in today’s constantly shifting digital economy. As you think about the software and solutions that drive your business forward in the coming years, complacency is not an option. About the Author(s) You May Also Like