So many business people (you!) don’t understand why it’s so hard to just get new software to make things happen in a business.

The short answer is: software will do only exactly what you tell it to do, and no more.

By way of illustration, if you could talk to software, a conversation about just one of many business processes might go something like this:

You: “We’re ready to set up the new system to process sales orders.”

Software: “OK. First thing you need to do is upload into my database all of your customers, and all of the products they buy.”

You: “That’ll be easy. I already have a list of customers and products ready.”

Software: “I’ll need to know customer names, addresses, what products they can buy, at what prices, what channel of business they are in, which sales rep gets credit for the sale, whether any commissions are to be calculated and paid to a broker, how to calculate the commissions, where to put that amount so that the broker gets paid, how you want me to pay the broker – check, EFT or other? – the customer’s hours of receiving, their fax and telephone numbers, who to contact with questions, whether you ship to them or they pick up their order, whether they get any discounts and if so for which products, under what conditions, how to calculate the discount and how to categorize the discount whether it is a sales promotion, customer loyalty discount, order size discount, or something else, their credit limits, banking information, tax ID number, how their orders are to be packaged, what the lead time will be from receipt of order to shipping, which warehouse should ship their order, whether sales taxes apply to their purchases, whether customs duties are to be paid, whether I should check their order for errors, what I should check, what constitutes an error, and what to do if I do find an error, whether you want me to send an order acknowledgment back to the customer, where I should send the acknowledgment, how you want me to send it, and how the acknowledgment should look, what information it should have on it, whether you want to be able to print a copy of the sales order, acknowledgment and invoice, how you want the invoice amount to be calculated, how you want the invoice to look and where and how you want it to be sent, what account you want me to post their invoice amount to as sales revenue, how long the customer has to pay the invoice, and for products I will need…”

You: “Wait, what? We don’t need half that stuff!”

Software: “Well, I do, if you want me to process your sales orders accurately.”

You: “But this is going to take forever!”

Software: “Not my problem. It should only take you a few weeks to get your customer data together in an upload file.”

You: “A few weeks just to load customer data?! We’re supposed to have this whole project done in about six months!”

Software: “Ha! What genius came up with that? The project should take about a year, maybe more. Now get going and get me your customer and product data, and make sure it’s perfect, because if it isn’t I won’t let it load into my database…”

Get it?  We don’t have a magic bullet yet so your only option is to slog through all the details, get your best people assigned to the project, make sure your data is pristine, allow lots of time for testing, and have a manual backup plan for when you cut over to the new system.