User adoption is a vexing issue for just about every type of enterprise software. Indeed, a recent post by blogger Khoi Vin set off a flood of comments in the blogosphere, much of it from folks frustrated with the user unfriendliness of business software, which seems even more annoying when contrasted with the near-Zen simplicity of wildly popular consumer applications such as Google's search engine.
A particular sore spot appears to be customer relationship management (CRM). Earlier this year, AMR Research found that an average of 25 percent of CRM licenses go unused. The problem, AMR's Robert Bois told me in a recent interview, is that while CRM software helps automate processes, it doesn't necessarily so do in a way that benefits end users. Read the interview: CRM Spending up, but User Adoption Still a Problem.
Sales people often complain that CRM or SFA (sales-force automation) is just an administrative burden, and does little more than prove to their boss that they are doing their job. So adoption wanes, and users go back to using familiar tools like spreadsheets, databases or even just Rolodexes. This is not as much of an issue with back-office applications, where there are no alternatives. For example, an order-entry operator must enter orders in the system they are given whether they like it or not.
So I wasn't exactly surprised to see a more recent survey of SMB owners by AMI-Partners in which nearly 83 percent said that getting staff to use the software was their biggest CRM challenge.
An AMI-Partners analyst interviewed in a destinationCRM.com story says much of the problem lies in the fact that big vendors are simply offering SMBs scaled-down versions of their enterprise software -- complete with unwieldy user interfaces. This is a long-standing issue for SMBs -- one I've blogged about before. Simpler interfaces will become "a critical differentiator" for vendors trying to win favor with SMBs, says the analyst.
Other survey highlights: Nearly 43 percent of respondents use less than half of their CRM system's functionality, and synchronizing data is a major issue for 50.5 percent of them.