The temptation to take a camera to the event marking the opening of the Sports Museum of America  was just too great. The event was held on Tuesday between our publications’ offices and the Wall Street bull. The institution, just across Broadway,  is the result of a nearly seven-year effort of CEO Philip Schwalb, who once worked with two accounting software VARs, and whose former boss, Doug Weintraub of Socius (when reselling operation was part of Centerprise Information Solutions), based in Cleveland, not surprisingly sold Dynamics GP as the accounting package for the new Wall Street area institution, which is expected to draw 1 million visitors a year.

The event was a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of sports figures, including the Giants Eli Manning, basketball legend Bob Cousy, announcer Bud Collins and tennis veterans, Billie Jean King, Patrick McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.

Even getting into the working press section, however, didn’t make taking photos easy. And somehow, it became evident that there were tools on my computer that could improve things.

Of particular notice was my use of Microsoft’s Picture Manager to bring out the details of the face of former Knick Walt “ Clyde” Frazier, turning shadows into recognizable features.

It struck me that even with thousands of photos from my venture into the digital age, I was just learning in the last month to use tools that had been available all along.

How much of business software fits the same category? There are features on desktops that make it possible to improve the quality of work and increase production. But users don’t know the opportunities are available.

Software vendors have long known this. About 1993, I visited the usability labs at Microsoft. One fact that stayed with me from a presentation was that about 75 percent (a very high percentage anyway), of the suggestions Microsoft receives for improvements was for features that are already in the software.

How do businesses make better use of software? This Microsoft fact clearly underlies Intuit’s gospel of ease of use. Software must be easy to use for users to find features.

Microsoft itself has found one answer in roles-based computing—users can’t see features they don’t need for their jobs. And the ribbon on Office 2007 (which is really a ribbon with tabs), implements that philosophy. You don’t see all features all the time. They are available, or not, depending on which tab is selected.

The other solution, of course, is training. If business wants to maximize its investment in technology, it must spend the money to make sure its workers know how to use them. Training is crucial to improving ROI.

Try to go the cheap way and you’ll find your workers are the same as that first take on Frazier’s face in the photo—lost in the shadows.

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