The key to overcoming ‘Software Paralysis’: Supporting employees as individuals

The key to overcoming ‘Software Paralysis’: Supporting employees as individuals

Vivek Behl, Digital Transformation Officer at WalkMe, says Software Paralysis is the antithesis of what companies want when investing valuable resources in cutting-edge technology tools. Organisations are therefore searching for the answer to put an end to this digital adoption gap and its unwanted consequences.

The modern workplace is inundated with new software and applications equipped with incredible new technologies. Employees are expected to use these tools almost instantly to become more productive and efficient, but it’s not always that simple. Organisations cannot simply purchase software with the expectation that it will be used exactly as intended without the right strategies in place. With the average enterprise employee using 27 applications per week and more than half (55%) of the workforce lacking the digital dexterity to use tech effectively, employees can easily become overwhelmed by these technologies, leaving them underutilised. The result has been termed ‘Software Paralysis’, a state in which employees battle to make progress with their daily tasks due to an abundance of digital friction and confusion while wasting valuable time trying to make sense of complex technology. Software Paralysis is the antithesis of what companies want when investing valuable resources in these cutting-edge technology tools. 

Research shows employees spend half an hour every day grappling with unfamiliar software they’re required to use. This not only leads to frustration for workers, but costs companies in lost productivity and negative returns on investments from technology. 

The cost of software struggles

When employees attempt to find a resolution for Software Paralysis, they can sometimes make the situation even worse. They may attempt to learn new platforms through ineffective means like online searches, reaching out to overburdened IT staff, or watching video tutorials on YouTube. These stopgap measures fail to get employees fully using complex tools. Employees may even inadvertently introduce new risks to the business or threaten compliance issues, whether by using an application for an unintended purpose, or entering into the world of shadow IT and using apps that have not been approved for use by the business. 

Mixing all these ingredients together could be a recipe for disaster. Our research found that a lack of uptake of digital technology is leading enterprises to overspend by more than US$32 million to reach their strategic goals. Without customised guidance when and where employees need it, employees will continue to rely on workarounds and fail to properly leverage the technological capabilities their employers are investing in. Businesses can’t afford to go on like this. So how can they put an end to this digital adoption gap and its unintended consequences like Software Paralysis?

Moving away from one-size-fits-none 

It’s no use thinking a software update or tweaking the tech stack will solve the issue. To really tackle Software Paralysis, businesses must move away from a default one-size-fits-all approach to training and onboarding employees and instead start treating them as individuals. 

Employees have diverse technical abilities and learn at different paces so blanket training fails to account for individual differences. Generic instructions delivered uniformly move either too fast or too slow for employees – or are not relevant for their current role. Being realistic, if they don’t need to use a specific application or function right now, how many people are going to remember how processes or specific features work when they need them in the future? Employees often emerge disengaged from generalised learning experiences. In turn, they become frustrated, leading to low productivity levels and high turnover, as they are simply not set up for success. 

To tackle this, businesses first need visibility into what applications employees are actually using. What tasks are they being used for and are there any signs of headaches or problems along the tech stack? With this information to hand, businesses can set about delivering tailored support to employees at an individual level. They should make guidance as easy to follow as possible and move away from using each application’s individual tutorial or training function to offer one single layer of guidance that sits across the entire tech stack providing a uniform user experience.

This tailored approach allows employees to master technology tools at their own pace through active guidance. Instead of having to learn different applications, processes and workflows, individuals can simply do what they need to do the moment they need to do it with direct on-screen guidance. Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) provide customised guidance and automation in the flow of work, across applications and workflows while providing unprecedented data insights into user behaviour so that the experience can continuously be improved and organisations can maximise the value from their software stack. This will leave them feeling empowered to use the technology independently without burnout or fear of failure. Companies will benefit from faster uptake of new applications and employees will access in-task assistance rather than resorting to outside channels. 

Overall, this approach should reduce the risk of employees being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of technology, meaning they’re less likely to suffer from Software Paralysis or even just general digital friction in their work day. Instead, they will feel supported, with laser-focused guidance that drills down on their own specific needs, skillset and workflows. 

Moving from paralysis to productivity

Software Paralysis can severely diminish employee productivity and engagement. If workers are drowning in tools they don’t know how to use, they’ll spend time looking for workarounds, fail to unlock the benefits and even risk compromising compliance or a security breach. By giving them the help they need in the context they need it, technology can empower rather than intimidate. 

Overcoming Software Paralysis requires a personalised approach to individual employee needs. Rather than attempting one-size-fits-all training and support, businesses must tailor support to people’s job roles and existing knowledge. With the right level of personalisation, users can fully harness the technology at their disposal to do their best work. By taking an employee-centric approach, businesses and employees will be on the right track to conquering Software Paralysis once and for all.

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