5 Ways to Avoid the Dreaded Shelfware (SPONSORED)

Shelfware is a waste, often resulting from muddled priorities. It also highlights the importance of aligning technology purchases with strategic imperatives.

Trevor Schulze, Chief Information Officer

December 4, 2023

4 Min Read

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

It's a well-known saying, but one I’d like to rephrase for those of us in the tech space:

"In the digital forest of innovation, if software is deployed but remains unused, does it truly add value?"

In their eagerness, companies often purchase expensive new tech without considering how it ties into their existing ecosystem or more extensive strategy.

It sits on the shelf. It’s useless. It’s shelfware.

Here are five good ways to prevent shelfware from accumulating in your organization.

#1: The Value Rule

When you and your team evaluate new technologies, it should be about value. Look beyond hype, features, or bells and whistles. Instead, consider the technology’s tangible value to your organization and its possible impact on business outcomes.

Many tech solutions considered “best-in-breed” have earned that achievement precisely because of their ability to help you extract deep business value over time from multiple parts of your organization. Be on the lookout for that kind of non-obvious value.

Ask more profound questions if you’re purchasing automation tools or other tech. Will this help us scale? Will it drive efficiencies? Does it align with our broader strategic imperatives? If a technology doesn't look like it will align and produce tangible outcomes or show business value, move on.

#2: Business Alignment

The second way to prevent shelfware? Ensuring broad business alignment. This can get tricky --  not everyone has the same priorities or level of tech-savviness -- and it’s where CIOs are wise to take a lead role in educating and coaching functional leaders while building deep business partnerships within the organization.

Some functional leaders may not know what's possible with tech. The CIO must lay it out for them to help them understand value. Getting extensive buy-in from functional leaders can be a significant ingredient in whether your next move is a success.

#3: Time to Value

The moment you purchase software, its billing cycle commences. If deployment takes a year, that year's potential value is forfeited.

Deployment of new tech can have a significant drag effect on ROI. As a result, I see Time to Value as another pillar in efforts to avoid shelfware. Everyday matters when it comes to adopting new technology, both from a logistical and financial perspective. Any ROI calculations should be based on a broader view of value -- that might mean assessing software, hardware, or a combination of the two, along with the availability or effectiveness of supporting business processes. Integration planning is crucial for determining Time to Value after all -- you'll need to understand how the new software will integrate with existing systems to ensure smooth workflows and data consistency.

Don’t forget about your users. Invest in comprehensive training programs so they understand how to use the capabilities effectively and consider reaching out to your customer success teams to discuss change management strategies that can increase utilization. They often have templates and playbooks that you can use.

#4: Active Asset Management

Understanding the value of software requires active management and monitoring of its use. A software solution could address your most significant business challenges, but the ROI is questionable if the licenses remain unused.

For Software as a Service (SaaS), your teams must monitor usage consistently, not only at renewal times. Being armed with usage data can lead to significant cost savings and strengthen your negotiation position. Achieving full utilization should be a shared goal with your software provider; the more you use the software, the more indispensable it becomes.

In the realm of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), establishing a Financial Operations (FinOps) practice within the IT department is vital to gaining real-time insights and the ability to manage and eliminate unnecessary expenditures.

#5: Flexibility

Flexibility is the last piece of this puzzle in trying to prevent shelfware from stacking up. You don't know what next year's business problem will be or what challenges will emerge and test you. You can only plan so much. The most flexible companies in the world can pivot on a dime in those moments. They lean into their modern data stack in real-time, weather that storm, and emerge with new advantages over their rivals. (This ability to remain flexible drives a considerable part of any total cost of ownership discussion, too, by the way.)

When we look at new platforms, we're looking for flexibility, extensibility, and seamless integration into our current stack. It's a big ask. But when we think about data and analytics, this rises to the top because that modern data stack must tap into many systems. It must drop into an existing ecosystem of dozens or even hundreds of potential data sources; it has to quickly and easily get access and then push and pull data into those systems. Ultimately, you're trying to get insights out of all these different systems and combine them into something that has even higher value. It’s a big ask, but it can be done.

Can your technology solutions adapt to unforeseen challenges? Are your platforms extensible enough to rapidly integrate new capabilities and absorb new, possibly disruptive, innovations that reshape the marketplace? To put it bluntly, they’d better.

About the Author(s)

Trevor Schulze

Chief Information Officer, Alteryx

As Alteryx's Chief Information Officer, Trevor Schulze leads the global IT team in delivering a comprehensive, business-led technology services and solutions portfolio. He works to inspire global teams to envision and execute creative solutions to difficult business problems and successfully capitalize on new market opportunities. His focus is on transforming businesses through innovative operational and technology initiatives and bringing award-winning products to market.

Before joining Alteryx, Trevor served as RingCentral's Chief Information Officer and Global CIO at Micron Technology.

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