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June 21, 2018

Wasted software is wasteful expenditure

By: Ian Houvet – Director, Boxfusion

“Wasteful expenditure”, it’s an ugly turn-of-phrase that has become so commonplace in South Africa’s political discourse.

Usually we associate wasteful expenditure with illicit tenders and shady, underhanded deals, but what about software used in government processes? It is both ubiquitous and invisible, which means it’s waste often goes unnoticed.

According to a study conducted by market research company, Forrester, 49% of CRM software projects fail (the equivalent of $18billion dollars wasted), while according to IT company Flexera, 93% of private companies have shelfware (software that they’ve paid for, but don’t make use of).

There are a number of reasons why software becomes shelfware. Often organisations oversubscribe to licence agreements (in the local landscape, this is often with large, international vendors) and end up using few, if any, of the programmes or solutions subscribed to.

Combined with oversubscription, another reason software becomes shelfware is because the solutions that have been purchased are “one size fits all” and thus don’t actually meet the specific needs of the purchaser. Because the UX unsuitable, unpleasant or difficult to navigate, staff members lose interest and revert to previous processes, or devise ways to work around the software, while still complying with proper office procedure.

A third reason why organisations often end up with shelfware is adoption. Good intentions and enthusiasm remain just that (or turn into unused, wasted software) if the rollout and adoption process isn’t done in such a way that the everyday end users get the best value out of the software purchased.

What is the solution to this wasteful expenditure? While a lot of companies and public sector offices realise they have shelfware, they feel like the cost of migrating to and implementing more appropriate applications for their purposes will end up costing more than the existing shelfware licence they’re already subscribed to.

This doesn’t have to be the case when selecting the right service provider. Oversubscription is starting to become a thing of the past, as more and more software developers and tech companies are changing to dynamic pricing models. Vendors that offer clients pay-as-you-go, per second billing and sustained usage models ultimately offer greater value for money. And if a vendor truly believes in the value of the product they’re selling, they may offer free trial options to prove worth to prospective clients.

“One size fits all” software is really no solution for any business. Every operation is unique, and this is especially true of government departments. Locally, we experience shelfware because we assume that international, established vendors (who often come with a hefty price tag) offer better service and value than local solutions. The problem is that these international companies don’t understand local software requirements, and the particular challenges faced by the South African public sector. These software solutions turn out to be not fit for purpose. They proverbially gather dust, while still costing thousands in licence fees.

Local software developers have insight into the South African public sector and can tailor solutions to meet the specific needs of specific departments at specific times, reducing wasteful expenditure on unhelpful programmes that don’t serve the purpose they were purchased for.

The other benefit of choosing a local solution is that it can solve the problem of adoption. Home-grown IT developers can be on hand to assist with the rollout and implementation of tailor-made software. At the end of the day, the software (local or otherwise) can be brilliant, but if the end-users don’t adopt it, it’s going to end its life as shelfware.

Government officials and bureaucrats are already busy. They don’t need more work to do (i.e. learning new software programmes) and they want to cut down on costs wherever possible. What they require is a tailor-made solution that is going to reduce their workload, increase productivity and give them value for money, while reducing shelfware and wasteful expenditure.

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