Can We Really Make a Difference?

Written By: Iris Schimke

from April 6, 2012

Sitting in our quarterly GP User Group meeting, I look around and see faces I have known for 20 years or more and some only 2 years. Their faces are blank, yet they are focused on the topic and concentrating. The room is silent except for the consultant speaking at the podium. More features, and great functionality buried below the surface. The presenter’s voice trails off in the distance as I drift just a little, wondering if what we show today will really help them. Can they benefit?

Maybe I can make a difference if I close my eyes, free my mind of the daily clutter, and try to visualize what our client feels. Maybe, just maybe, I could walk a mile in their shoes and understand the effort it takes to wrestle the value out of the functionality in the Microsoft Dynamics GP software listed in the “what’s new” section of the help menu. Has it been too long since I walked in their shoes, understanding their desire to learn but not have the time to really dig in and make a change?

If you are like most folks working today, you have survived the economic hurricane of the last few years. You managed to dodge the layoffs, work for a company smart enough to leverage their talent and truly focus on what was profitable. That also means you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Today, you can celebrate that triumph. But now what?

Lean and mean doesn’t always translate into best practices. Some had to do more with less. Not less functionality, just fewer people. Because there were fewer mouths to feed in the finance department or warehouse, those of us left to perform the work had to get it done – however we could – now and not later. My visualization is starting to feel a bit uncomfortable because I understand better the dilemma.

“Okay, tell me something I don’t know,” you are thinking right about now and maybe even said that out loud. “Do I take the time to learn new things? What value does that really have? How can I learn something new if I don’t have time to get what I need done?”

Using and learning software to me is like eating. Something you need to do to sustain your work. I remember what I always told my boys, “Take small bites, it is easier to chew.” “Swallow what you have in your mouth before you take another bite.” Boys are notorious for multiple bites before swallowing. If you are smiling now you know exactly what I mean. For the majority of us trying to juggle activities and tasks, you probably eat while you do something else like reading, catching up on email, watching television or surfing the web. You forget what and how much you really ate. Perhaps even when to stop eating if you are engrossed in your other activity. This is true for how we use software. It is a means to an end, get it done, and on to the next.

I know now how to help our clients see value. I get it and I can make a difference. The challenge is “how?” The first step is to help them focus on one or two small features, like using Smartfill by Rockton Software and typing the description in the account number field to find the right account, just like a Bing or Google search. Perhaps just being able to reprint a payroll check stub would be the most helpful. Maybe we should focus on those two things and see what each client using the system would gain. Just two features and focus. Could it be that simple? One small bite for finance could be huge.

I am excited to work on focus for our clients. Now I have my “make a difference” plan. To help our clients do more with less time, learn and still manage their workload, and digest the tidbits that will really matter in the new functionality.

…I hear clapping and snap back to the User Group and the end of the presentation. I see smiling faces and hear the chatter of clients engaging with our staff and each other. As the room empties and we say our goodbyes, I am feeling a bit hungry. I notice there are a few cookies left, so I’ll grab one on the way to read email. Just remember one bite at a time and then swallow.