Software: How Big Is Too Big?

April 5, 2009

Back in this post titled Don’t Automate Broken Processes  I wrote about SME’s having reached the stage where they need to start looking at certain line of business or enterprise software tools.

First, a definition.

By Line of Business or Enterprise software, I mean one of the set of critical computer applications that are vital to running an enterprise. 

These tools  go beyond your basic  productivity software and independent tools that developers or engineers may be using.

These line of business tools hang a good part of a business unit, or even your entire enterprise on their backs.

To do this, these tools generally consist of various work flows, roles, approval levels etc.

Examples of these types of tools could be service dispatch management, point of sale, inventory management, financial management, etc.

So, When Is Software Too Big?

These type of products can be too big for you if they are assuming work flows and roles that do not exist in your organization.

The Analogy

Let me use an analogy that most of us will be familiar with;

Your car service shop. Most likely you will take your car to one of these two;

a)A one or two person shop where Gerry & Jim have known you for years

b) A large dealership or service center with many roles. These roles could include service advisers, service managers, technicians, parts managers, warranty managers etc.

So, lets look at the roles and duties in the larger shop;

The service adviser inputs your service work into the software.

The service tech inputs his work and parts used etc into another place in the software.

The parts manager can view inventory levels for determining parts orders etc.

The warranty manager can look at billing for warranty service.


This is highly simplified, but you get the idea.

Back to Gerry & Jim

Sure, as an automotive service shop – they have the same challenges that the big shop does.

But in their case, the amount of time lost trying to manually change roles in the software as they go about their daily routine would be prohibitive.

Since they do all the roles themselves, they would have to change their thinking, “OK, now I have to go into the software as the parts manager to see that inventory …..”

The SMB Takeaway

If the software that you are considering is role and work flow based, be aware that if you are wearing many hats, and one or three people are doing many of those roles, the software is probably too big for you.

Because in these situations, what takes you 10 minutes to do now, would take 30 trying to manually change to those roles that the software is expecting.

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