back to article The software industry: So efficient, we invented shelfware

It has always amused me that we work in an industry that has built up such a bad reputation for overselling that we actually coined the phrase "Shelfware". To be fair and accurate about it, buyers are just as guilty as sellers here, and they often bulk-buy licences for software and services with little consideration, seldom …


This topic is closed for new posts.

This post has been deleted by a moderator


IG In the NHS

You should see the mess that is Information Governance in the NHS. Despite them having ridiculous amounts of data (medical records, financial records, performance records, etc) IG is still seen as a manual process following guidelines laid down in 1995.

CHALLENGE: Try and make it though the mandatory IG training at

Apart from being deathly boring, it's also out of date, using examples like faxing things to India, and recommending password management policies that are simply not usable with the number of systems staff have access to these days.



What about support costs? Those really don't change no matter what type of licensing arrangements your chosen software has. In fact there's a strong argument that desktop OSS support costs more after figuring in the salaries and hiring of qualified staff. If you go with 3rd party support you're still locked in.

I have no real feelings either way, I feel software is just a tool and it is best to use whatever gets the job done, I'm just curious. Free licenses seems a fairly trivial issue in the overall scheme of things...

Anonymous Coward

Re: Support?

So in your opinion let's keep proprietary solutions cause they allow employing unqualified people ? I mean, come on, software is software. If you have some staff who couldn't find their way in a new software environment just because it is OSS and they need to be retrained, then I'm afraid you're in pretty bad hands anyway. Same goes for end-users who are unable to find and read some menus on a screen.

Just my two cents here, that's all.


shelfware is the fault of the buyer alone

It is not the fork's fault you are fat.

It is not the seller's fault you failed to use the software.

If you bought something you really did not need, then you are an idiot.

If you bought a tool you actually need yet you plod along as if you did not have it, you are still an idiot.

Tis a poor craftsmen that blames his tawdry kitsch on the tool seller.

Thumb Up

Nicely Said.. and from an NHS perspective

IG puts people to sleep (no disprespect to hard working IG teams everywhere)

Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability - thats IT's problem.

And "nurses are getting drowned in paperwork"..

Maybe we can make it work, but EVERYBODY would have to want it to work!

Silver badge

Of course if you are the VENDOR...

Then 'shelfware' is a wonderful proposition. You get to sell something that is not used. No support costs, no nothing. Yes, it did take a bit of time to develop, but those 100's of copies that aren't used represent PURE PROFIT. It is a wonderful way to do business.

Of course, the buyers think that the 'bulk license' is a wonderful idea. Get a bunch at a wonderful discount. They never consider that while the price for a bunch is cheaper at the unit cost, the total cost if only a few copies are used is much more than buying a small number of copies (if any).

So, yes, the buyers are the ones out of touch, but when you deal with a purchasing department of a company anything can go wrong!

The flip side is when you specify a bunch of items (it doesn't need to be software) that are needed in the product you sell, and buy a bunch based on the total number of assembled units to ship over a lifetime. Said widgets are likely to be difficult as the lifetime of the selling unit goes on, so having inventory is useful. Then some purchasing guy notices "unused inventory" and attempts to recover the costs by selling the little used items. Then the next ship for your assemblies comes by and you need the items in inventory, only to discover that they have been surplused off and you need to buy more at 10x the original cost. If you don't think this happens, I had a friend that this exact thing happened to. Purchasing agents be damned!

Live & Learn.

Gold badge

Information Governence in the "cloud" will be a b**ch.

I wonder if call-me-Dave and his pals have spotted that little fly in the ointment.


Throw the switch, Igor...

Information has always been at the heart of IT - properly designed IT systems take the core information a business needs and models how they interact with that information, realising some elements in systems that make it happen faster, better, cheaper and without forgetting the 'wetware' bits.

Anything else is either imposition of a process by IT on the business (SAP anyone?) or the politics of the organisation (the NHS NPfIT failed because it did not understand what it was really trying to achieve and failed to control the scope of what it was delivering, a lot of due to the politics of the 'what does it mean for me' crowd).

Shelfware? The over aggressive sale of software to under-informed users desperate for a solution to past mistakes in IT decisions.

Open Source? tends to end up as nice implementations to solve a particular business problem (fragmenting information) or in larger systems that need expensive technical resource to oversee and customise, sorry configure (well we all like to twirl the propeller on out hat every now and then, don't we?)

XaaS? Again it tends to drive more information fragmentation - until someone comes up with a proper solution to orchestrating the flow of information (including service confidence monitoring, security etc.) between the crufty old in-house systems and the bright shiny clouds.

If only people spent more time looking at the arrows between the boxes in the LEAN process flow charts - each one is a 'communications event' with some 'information' passed across it - then they would understand more about what to do with that information and have a reasonable chance of ending up with a solution that worked properly with that information. Instead we rush like 5-year olds to the shiniest software vendors Christmas tree.

And as for the 80% of information the IBM say will be without provenance (i.e. unverifiable in truth or origin), by 2016 or so (that's unverifiable, I can't remember what the presentation said...) let's leave that to the 'Super Hadoopers' to give us some insight that we can test against our own known facts.

Off to get out the Tea (as a) Service and a plate(spin) of Virtual Hobnobs...

This topic is closed for new posts.