When an organization or corporation makes a software solution purchase, it is often the result of many hours of research, meetings, demonstrations, and the submission of countless forms and paperwork. It’s a considerable investment for sure, with the hopes of future efficiencies and cost savings. However, if the application isn’t being managed by the right resource, any efficiencies and cost savings can quickly become in-efficiencies, typically bringing about additional costs. This is where Mastering Your Software Application becomes paramount.
In order to fully Master Your Application, one must first be aware of what it CAN do for your organization. This often requires training –sometimes multiple tiers of training – with the software vendor. Most vendors will be happy to provide this training, as they are fully aware of the benefits of having a highly skilled resource managing the application within the organization.
The next step is to understand how your user base is presently using the application. Are your users using the system efficiently or are they making mistakes which generate errors, cause downtime, or otherwise turn a cost saving efficient process, into an expense? Working with the user base to determine their current processes will help you as the Application Master finds ways to expand the uses of the application throughout the organization, which will help to increase the overall return on investment. Working with the user base provides a great opportunity to document the user processes and any relevant information.
Organizations often have an unofficial ‘resident expert’ who is frequently relied upon for critical information and knowledge or use of the application. It is highly advisable to explore what made this particular person the unofficial resident expert – what particular skills or knowledge lead to this person filling this unofficial, but important position. Should that resident expert be unavailable or leave the department, or even the organization, who will then fill in the knowledge gaps in regards to the application management? Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is the ‘resident expert’ on the application?
- Why are they regarded as the expert?
- What would happen with the application if they suddenly left the organization?
While working to Master Your Application, one should consider the application environment, and what technology is used to power the application. In general, most applications utilize one, or all of three main components one way or another: Database, Website, and Application Server. Each of these three technologies requires skills and knowledge of them in order to properly manage an application that uses them. Careful consideration should be given to the following:
- Who manages/maintains the database?
- What server(s) host the database?
- Is database redundancy in place?
- What website technology is used?
- Is website redundancy in place?
- Server architecture
- Some applications run on a single server, some use multiple servers.
- Server health and maintenance:
- All servers require maintenance – backups and cleanup.
- All servers require monitoring and management.
When Mastering Your Application, it is prudent to be highly familiar with the technology behind the application, possess the necessary skills to manage the technology used, and to know when/how/who to reach out to in order to attain other resources for assistance in these areas.
Proper documentation is mandatory when Mastering Your Application. While it is often very easy for this important step to be skipped because ‘there just wasn’t time to document <fill in the blank>’, the time and effort required to relearn what was not documented, quickly and frequently exceeds the time that would have been required to properly document changes or critical information, which typically leads to easily avoided expense for all of the parties involved.
While working towards Mastering Your Application, you will likely find the need to work with the software vendors, as they will possess the in-depth knowledge and understanding of what the application is capable of doing, the most efficient uses of the application, and the necessary steps to keep the application running properly. Knowing how to work efficiently with the software vendor is a pivotal part of Mastering Your Application. When seeking assistance from the vendor, providing them with questions and information in a clear and concise manor will typically lead to faster issue resolution and vendor assistance. Most software vendors will have a preferred process for reporting issues and seeking assistance and will be happy to train you on that process, as it is mutually beneficial.
Mastering Your Application always takes time, and depending upon your particular strengths and weakness and the complexity of the application and environment, it may require considerable time before you have fully Mastered Your Application. The time and effort required should be considered not as a cost or expense, but as an investment that will provide great returns in the future.