Most businesses rely on some kind of tracking software to help them manage their operations. For example, you might rely on time tracking software like Toggl to help you keep track of how your employees are spending their time and how profitable your operations are. You might use task and project tracking software like Trello to help organize your high-level projects and keep your team focused on your ultimate goals. For bigger enterprises and those with tangible products to manufacture and ship, you might use a barcode-based or inventory tracking system like SystemID.

Though different in nature and intention, the bottom line for these systems is the same: they're all focused on helping you save time and improve efficiency within your organization. That's why it's so frustrating to discover that your supposed "time-saving software" might actually be costing you time in the long run!

Many Kinds of Imperfections

How is your software costing you valuable time? The imperfections can manifest in a number of ways:

  • Lack of functionality. First, you might be suffering because your technology simply can't do what you need. For example, you might have a detailed inventory management system, but it doesn't tie into your accounting software, making it difficult for your teams to connect with one another and causing discrepancies in your overall processes. It's hard to find any software with everything you'd ever want, so you'll have to make some compromises--just know when you're making too many.

  • User experience or performance issues. There's a positive correlation between user experience and productivity, though this should be intuitive. If a software platform is easier to use, it's going to take less time to use. If you're having UX problems or performance issues, the entire productivity of your team could suffer. For example, if a certain feature is hard to find, or if the software lags between user inputs, you may have a problem.

  • Procedural inconsistencies. Of course, the platform itself could be perfectly fine--but the way you're using it is off. Have you formally documented the procedures that should be used when maintaining this software? Are all of your employees following them? If the answer to either question is no, it could mean your procedures are inefficient, making it harder to use your chosen software efficiently.

  • Employee time factors. It takes time to train your new and existing employees on a new software platform, so you may not notice if it takes several hours more than it rightfully "should." If your platform is hard to learn, it could end up costing you significantly in terms of man-hours, and correspondingly, money.

  • Adaptability woes. Circumstances change. You may find a new software platform that you want to integrate with your existing system, or you may encounter new needs as you continue using your existing software; when this happens, if your software isn't flexible or adaptable, you could run into major issues.

  • Software value. Finally, it's important to consider how much you're paying for your software. If it's expensive, your employees should see even higher increases in productivity to signal you're getting your money's worth.

So how can you tell if your software is experiencing any of these conditions, and what can you do from there?

Step One: Root Cause Analysis

Your first step is to perform a brief root cause analysis. Take a look at any potential factors that could be influencing your employees' performances and determine which, if any, among them is to blame for hindering your overall productivity. This is important to perform, even if you feel like your software is performing adequately--you might be surprised how much time you're actually wasting.

Step Two: Choosing Between Improvement and Replacement

Generally, your options will come down to either replacing a system entirely (such as a flawed procedural document) or improving one (such as updating it with new information). A full-on replacement will take more time and energy, but may be necessary depending on the results of your original evaluation.

Step Three: Implementation and Reevaluation

Your last step is to implement your course of action. If you're adopting a new system, do plenty of research before making your final choice and take the time to train everyone properly. If you're making updates, be thorough. Either way, pay careful attention to how your changes affect the productivity and operations of your organization--you may need to do some further tweaking in the near future.

It can be hard to tell when your software is causing more harm than it should, but once you notice it, it's on you to take action. No matter what kind of tracking or management software you're using, your team could be vulnerable to these imperfections and inconsistencies.

Remain vigilant about how your company implements and manages these types of software, and keep your focus on productivity as a bottom line.