Technology You Bought But Won't Learn to Use Is Money Wasted Remarkably few businesses invest the time, much less money, to maximize software they own but don't really understand.

By Gene Marks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


My 10-person company is in the technology business. For more than 20 years we've been selling accounting, customer-relationship management, sales, marketing and office-productivity software. We are a long-time Microsoft partner. Our clients are mostly small- and medium-sized businesses.

Twenty percent of my clients use technology really well. They've have integrated systems that provide them with alerts, workflow and other productivity gains. Their employees are accessing data from mobile devices wherever they are. Their managers are getting reports, consistently, that tell them important data that helps them run their businesses. And they are using software to make them more productive and their companies more profitable. These are my best clients. These are the ones who really get it.

The remaining 80 percent -- the lion's share, mind you -- aren't doing nearly as well. Sure, they're using the technology. But they're using their technology at its minimum to do the minimum. They've spent a little money and a little time and they're not getting much in return for it. In essence, they're failing. Is this you?

Related: A Look at Google Now, the Predictive Personal Assistant for Android and iOS

Take Microsoft Office. So many of us have it. Yet so many of us aren't using it very well at all. Sure, we do some basic word processing and spreadsheet work. We send emails with Outlook. We use the most rudimentary features of PowerPoint for presentations. But think about the buzz that summer intern created when he made that pivot table or did a mail merge or constructed a shared calendar. What was that black magic? You know this stuff can be done. But just ask most of my clients and they'll tell you, with eyes downcast, that they're using probably no more than 10 or 20 percent of what the application truly does.

For example, did you know that just about everything you do in Microsoft Office can now be stored on OneDrive, which is Microsoft's cloud drive (like DropBox)? That means that everyone in your organization (or outsiders who you give permission) can immediately view, share and update documents (the same document!) from any device they want and the changes are done real-time. In fact, you can "share" most files with just about anyone on demand, which sends messages and links to those files to the recipient. Do you ever use the chart feature in Excel? In fact, did you know that Excel can access and update data from many databases (probably including your databases) and you can use that data to do calculations and even forecasting automatically?

Related: You Don't Need an App for That

Microsoft Office allows you to initiate video conferences using Skype immediately and collaborate on documents with others in your team in real time. Oh, and ever heard of Delve? Delve, which is part of Microsoft Office, is a dynamic page of data, communications and information concerning your contacts, community, documents and business life that is very likely of interest to you based on your activities -- kind of like a mashup of Facebook and LinkedIn. Or Sway, Microsoft's new tool that brings together documents, communications, presentations and other information into presentable "stories" that may one day compete with what you're doing on PowerPoint.

You're not doing any of this stuff, right? You own and have paid for this product and you're not using it. It's like not turning on your car radio or not using the icemaker with your refrigerator. Yet you know your life would be better if you used these features. You know your people would be more productive. You know that with the right kind of effort and investment this application could be making you money.

I use Microsoft Office as my example because so many of us own it. But it's the same with Office competitors, such as Google Apps. Your failure doesn't end here, does it? You're not scratching the service of the features you could be using in your accounting, CRM, project management or service system either. And the toughest thing? You know why.

You're cheap.

Yes, you're cheap. You don't spend the money or time necessary to really get the value out of your technology. You won't pay for an employee to become an expert in your software so that he or she can help others take it to the next level. You won't spring for the training, consulting and support you know your people need to really become proficient with these tools. You're averse to sending employees away for certification classes and further education. And you hate to invest in more hardware, more devices and more network upgrades so that the software can have the right infrastructure to perform as well as it should.

You've got all this great technology. You paid for it. You own it. And yet you're only using a very, very small percentage of it. It's you. You're cheap. You're very busy. I get it. But, please, don't blame the tech industry. This is not their fault. It's yours.

Related: Customers Are Still Slow to Adopt Innovative New Tech. Why the Lag?

Gene Marks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

President of The Marks Group

Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group PC, a ten-person technology and financial consulting firm located near Philadelphia founded in 1994.

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