What is shelfware? This is a common term for software that is unusable or inoperable. In other words, it metaphorically “sits on the shelf” at an organization. 

Enterprise software is a significant investment intended to improve your bottom line. When it doesn’t achieve these aims, the software can result in financial losses rather than financial gains.

How can you avoid shelfware at your organization? We’re sharing all the information you need to know, whether you’re implementing an ERP system, SCM system, CRM system, or another type of enterprise software.

How Does Software Become Shelfware?

Of course, modern software can’t technically be stored on a physical shelf. Gone are the days of floppy disks and CD-ROMs. However, the idiom remains to this day because the problem of unused software is still prevalent. 

There are many reasons why the best-laid plans can go awry in a software implementation. Let’s look at a few of the most common ways software can start collecting cobwebs on a shelf.

1. Selecting the Wrong Solution

Often, the problem occurs right at the selection stage. A project team may select a software solution that’s simply ill-fitted for the company. 

This can occur due to a lack of strategic alignment and failing to include critical stakeholders in early discussions and in certain stages of the selection process.

The 2024 Top 10 ERP Systems Report

What vendors are considering for your ERP implementation? This list is a helpful starting point.

2. Minimizing User Training

New software can intimidate and overwhelm your employees. This is especially the case with an enterprise-wide solution, like ERP software.

As such, end-user training is an integral part of the pre-implementation and implementation process. Allowing hands-on access is a vital component of organizational change management and can maximize user adoption once the software goes live.

Change management is the process of minimizing employee resistance and building change competency into your organization. Developing a change management plan that includes training ensures that employees have the knowledge and ability to use new software.

Skipping or minimizing training (or any part of change management) could mean investing in a solution that ultimately sits stagnant as your team members avoid using it in their day-to-day workflows.

3. Inoperability With Existing Systems

When you evaluate software, you should ensure it’s compatible with your existing systems. Can it seamlessly integrate? How much effort would this require?

When your solutions integrate with one another, this ensures company-wide data exchange and informed decision making. However, if this data exchange doesn’t happen, your new investment will be nearly unusable.

4. Low Usability

Great software is inherently user-friendly. This is true whether you’re talking about ERP systems, HCM systems, MRP systems, or any type of software platform.

If the user interface is difficult to navigate, you can’t expect your employees to excitedly adopt it. Instead, expect them to revert to their former workflows that are familiar and easier. 

5. Inadequate Functionality

These inadequacies may not come to light until after the platform is installed, but the problem usually begins earlier. The requirements gathering phase is when the functionality of your future system hangs in balance.

You will either submit clear business requirements to your ERP vendor, or you will wait until the configuration stage and hurriedly mash together an incomplete, ill-informed list of requirements.

If you choose the latter, the software will not perform as you’d hoped regardless of whether it had the technical capability to begin with.

6. Too Many Features or Licenses

In theory, a feature-rich software solution sounds like a good thing. In many contexts, it can be. However, software can be so filled with bells and whistles that it becomes cumbersome to use.

For instance, if your company is small or just starting out, you may only need a point solution, like an eCommerce system. You don’t require the end-to-end functionality that large companies require, so why implement modules you don’t yet need?

Another example would be a company that lacks the bandwidth or risk tolerance to implement multiple software modules at once. They may need to implement in phases, instead.

An abundance of features won’t just drive up your costs. It can also overwhelm your employees and dissuade them from using the software altogether. 

Remember this fact when your vendor is offering discounts for you to purchase additional functionality or licenses. The thing about licenses is that they often automatically renew, resulting in costly redundancies.

7. Long and Costly Implementation

Sometimes, software gets shelved simply because it’s taking too long and requiring too much money to fully implement. This is why ERP implementation planning and setting realistic expectations are so important.

Stakeholders can become convinced that the most advanced solution is the most appropriate one. Then, during implementation, they’re shocked to find that the time and cost commitments are far beyond what the organization can realistically afford.

At this point, it’s too late to turn around, so they may terminate the project altogether.

Reducing the Risk of Shelfware

Before you begin an enterprise software implementation, we recommend taking the time to understand exactly what you need from a solution. Further, you should ensure all stakeholders and business units are on the same page concerning project goals. 

Many organizations engage an ERP consulting firm during this time. The right partner can help you understand user needs, research available options, and ensure a successful ERP selection.

Then they can help you establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor business benefits and solve issues following go-live. This keeps you on track to realizing expected benefits within expected timeframes. Optimal benefits realization is the mark of a cobweb-resistant solution.

What is Shelfware? [A Short and Sweet Summary]

Shelfware is software purchased by an organization that collects dust. In other words, it goes unused, resting in ERP failure.

You can identify the beginnings of shelfware by looking for classic symptoms like change resistance. This symptom is often the immediate result of the issues mentioned above.

Some business leaders don’t need to ask, “What is shelfware?” because they’re already living with it and are fully aware of the change resistance across their organization.

Our team of ERP consultants can help you avoid creating an environment ripe for shelfware. We can also assist with ERP project recovery to dust off and transform your shelfware into a powerful tool that enables your goals. Contact us below for a free consultation.

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