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Computer software: Easy or complex?

Easy to use software

Most of us have to use some form of computer these days. For some it may be nothing more than a smart phone. They use this in their spare time to browse social media or to check out the finer points of the best fudge recipe, they may just use it for WhatsApp. Others may find that computers and their software take up most, if not all of their time at work. Whichever category you fall into, computers and their software are virtually impossible to avoid.

Like most things in life, they do take a little getting used to. Anyone who watched the period drama Downton Abbey will recall the suspicion, fear and trepidation the house members felt over the introduction of the telephone and the gramaphone. These days we take their modern equivalents completely for granted, but some operating systems, phone formats, controls and computer software can still send even the most up to date technophile into a tail spin.

The sheer mind numbing complexity and seemingly pointless dropdown menus, pop up windows and plethora of other negative points can have us tearing our hair out. After all, technology is meant to make our lives easier, not more difficult.

The public sector are behind with software

You would think that the public sector jobs of police and fire services would have a computer software system that has all the latest bells and whistles and could do whatever they wanted it to do. Sadly, this is often far from the truth!

The computer software used by the public sector is frequently clunky, with 1980s clip art icons, slow, very complex and many miles away from being an intuitive software program.

These software packages become the bane of the service personnel and are very often eye wateringly expensive to buy, install and maintain. Clearly this is not a good thing when the public are effectively paying a large chunk of the public sector funding through their taxes.

Time wasted costs money

When one considers the extensive down time of some unreliable software packages, coupled with the time employees spend raising service tickets with an overstretched and frustrated IT department, it's easy to see where a huge amount of time can be lost.

Productivity goes out of the window and the morale of the workforce will take a nosedive if a significant amount of time is spent dealing with poor software on a daily basis.

Let's face it, employees don't want to spend their days teaching their workmates how to use the computer programs, assuming they can get to grips with it themselves. Worse still, there are some businesses that go as far as to weed out current employees who struggle with the software as the cost of training is seen as yet another drain on their finances too.

The negative impact of complex software

We've already discussed the impact on productivity and time wasted, but these factors are linked to a greater cost involved when it comes to complex software packages.

If your workforce are struggling to keep up to speed with the software and reports or orders are held up, or possibly even lost, then your customers are going to be looking elsewhere for a solution to their business needs.

Data exports or imports that fail, drop down menus that are ambiguous or simply downright confusing or a software package that can't even handle the generation of a simple purchase order or receipt, will have your customers running for the hills. The solution is simple however!

How a good computer software package should behave

It is so important that when looking around for a new software program for your business you consider the level of support that is provided with it. ‬Quite often without this support, ‬software can be difficult to install, ‬and once again you could find that you have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire in your haste to escape the shackles of your previous software package.

Fortunately, Survey Jem is such an easy program to use, although we offer support, we rarely get asked to provide more than a phone call or two. This is usually sufficient to iron out any user issues with our software.

Before purchasing a new software package, consider the following points:

Does the software provider offer support at the times when you and your employees are likely to need it most?

How difficult will the set up be? Will you have to do it yourself, or can the provider deal with this side of things? After all, the software may not have to be held locally on your work systems, it could be web based.

Think about the training required! Training on a new piece of software is vital, but the easier the software, the less time, money and effort will be required for training. Survey JEM was designed to be used by anyone, even those that ask how to turn on the computer. It's powerful, yet simple!

Keeping it simple!

If the software is user friendly and uncomplicated, ‬then users can navigate most of the system without having to constantly ask for help from their workmates or the IT team‭, this fact alone saves many hours a year from being wasted.

Remember that some employees can take to computer software like a duck to water, even if it is a little complex, whereas others will struggle with even basic programs. Keeping it simple so that all levels can use and understand it makes sound economic and business sense. ‬

If even the simplest of tasks prove difficult, ‬even for just a few of your staff, ‬then whole business will be affected and the overall effectiveness of the software will be diminished as it will not be used to its fullest potential.

Should the software only be used for a specific department who are trained in its use, the negative effects can be minimised, but should new staff be taken on, the training costs are bound to rise. Software should ideally be easy for everyone to use.

If things go wrong with the software

Some companies outsource their IT support to companies that may not always have first hand knowledge of the software being used, they often stab around in the dark looking for the most likely problem, hoping to offer a solution. ‬Companies that have support from the software developer who knows the product inside out, will spend less time and money trying to rectify issues.

An easy to use help screen

If the software is easy to use, the need for support is reduced considerably. Having an intuitive help library within the software is an even better way to avoid a call to raise a service ticket. Simple step by step instructions can be worth their weight in gold and will again save time and money.

Is software support included in the licence price?

Before you buy any software‭, ensure support is offered and also included in the licence price. Also check to see if there are other factors that may incur extra charges‭. ‬If ongoing IT support is chargeable‭, ‬then a budget should be allocated each year by the business. ‬

Ask others about the software

Always remember that if something is good, very few will say a word in its favour, but if it's bad, they'll shout their disdain from the rooftops to anyone willing to listen. So ask others who have used the software you are thinking of using before you buy.

You will get a better understanding of the support you can expect than hearing it from existing customers. Check out case studies and look for a customer satisfaction rating on places like Trust Pilot, as these can offer you an honest rating of the service and support and what you can expect if you were to go ahead with the purchase.

So save time, money and a series of major headaches by researching, then buying a reliable, powerful yet easy to use software package, can you really afford not to?

By Neil Harrison LL.B. (Hons)

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