Your office software is not the problem — you are

Gene Marks
3 min readMay 12, 2024

If your software is wreaking havoc, don’t fault the technology

(This column originally appeared in The Guardian)

Hating on office software is one of modern life’s favorite pastimes. Expenses, time off, hiring — every week another bit of office life seems to get a new app and a new set of haters.

This past week it was Workday’s turn. The HR and productivity platform that many large — and not-so-large — companies use to help facilitate everything from onboarding new employees to benefits management and performance reviews “has been making a mint creating misery where painless processes could be”, according to Business Insider titled: “Everyone hates Workday.”

But as the piece points out — it’s not all Workday’s fault. And as the owner of a company that sells customer relationship management (CRM) software to small and mid-sized businesses, I can tell you something that most software vendors are thinking, but don’t want to say publicly: if you don’t like the software, don’t blame the software. Blame yourself.

When a flight is delayed because of an unruly, drunk passenger is that the airline’s fault? When your car breaks down because you haven’t had it serviced in years is it because your car is bad? Was it the stadium’s responsibility that you are doubled up by indigestion after eating a hotdog to celebrate every inning during “dollar dog night”?

Who doesn’t love to point fingers elsewhere — especially at a faceless “app” — when we don’t want to take responsibility for our own failings?

Workday isn’t perfect. It’s a big, complicated system and like any big, complicated system it requires big, complicated grownups to run it. The problem is that most organizations don’t have big, complicated grownups running them. The managers assigned to implement products like Workday (and the CRM systems we sell) tend to be lower-level drones who step aside from challenges and avoid the extra effort required to really make products like this work the way they’re supposed to. They’re afraid of taking risks, confronting others, being assertive and having thoughts. They don’t want to lose their jobs over a “silly” HR or CRM application. They’ll do anything to cover their asses.

So what do these systems require? The same that’s required of all business investments: time and money. Time needs to be spent properly planning out the implementation of these systems in the short term and then more time needs to be devoted over the long term to improve how the system is used. Software applications like Workday aren’t a one-and-done investment, they’re a long-term relationship.

Money needs to be spent on the right licenses and modules but also on hiring the right outside consultants to properly implement, integrate, migrate data and — and this cannot be stressed enough — train. This is a long-term investment that has to be considered upfront and with commitment.

Some managers and owners get this. They understand that they’ve invested serious dollars in systems like Workday not just to improve productivity but — just as importantly — to create a data store that increases the value of their company both to their existing management teams and potential future investors. They continue to invest in their administrators and their software and, although sympathetic to their workers’ complaints, have the bigger picture in mind. They say: we’ll provide you with support to use the system, so use the system because it’s not always about you, it’s also about the organization.

People who don’t get it turn their staff into the people interviewed in the Business Insider column who say things like “I simply hate Workday” or “Everything is non-intuitive, so even the simplest tasks leave me scratching my head.” But next time you are bashing the company software, look in the mirror, folks. Like many of our so-called problems, it’s not the software. It’s us.

Originally published at https://www.theguardian.com on May 12, 2024.

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Gene Marks

Columnist on smallbiz, economy, public policy, tech for The Guardian, The Hill, Philly Inquirer, Wash Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur. Small Business owner and CPA