Groaning Shelves – avoiding Shelf Ware in the world of SAP

By Clinton Jones on September 14, 2011

I have just spent the past week in meetings with our sales organization and one of the topics that came up as a topic line was the concept of Shelf ware. Enterprise Irregular Ray Wang wrote in 2010 that In the latest Software Insider survey, 57% of global enterprises own more software licenses than deployed

Shelf ware of course is an interesting concept in that it is not something that a given organization ever intentionally invests in. In the realm of enterprise systems however there is almost always some software that lands up being bought but never gets implemented. The issue in some of these instances may not be so much the purchase of a given piece of software but the bundling of a given piece of software with another piece of software or hardware. In the longer term, if you have bought the ‘solution’ outright and you are paying an annual maintenance fee for the solution, it is likely that a portion of that maintenance fee is being paid for ongoing support and release upgrades of the existing software components including those that may not be installed and operational.

CIO.com.au also wrote some years back on the 5 deadly sins of shelf ware in the enterprise and that also makes interesting reading. It cites the following traits in an organization that result in shelf ware:

  • Ignorance
  • Fear
  • Gluttony
  • Aggravation
  • Sloth

One of the ways to ensure that you are not paying more than necessary in terms of maintenance and support fees would be for you to annually perform a value assessment of the costs you are incurring in terms of maintenance fees for a given software solution. Another way is to ensure that you know what you are getting before you buy the software product. Unfortunately for enterprise solutions this doesn’t always seem possible but nonetheless, getting an understanding of simply the features and capabilities combined with a slick sales engineering demo may be enough to get you to buy into the solution.

Of course if your business is seriously committed to solving a particular business problem it is hopefully unlikely that you will be investing in any Shelf ware to solve that particular problem. Before you sign that PO though, make sure that you have dotted your ‘I’s and crossed your ‘t’s to make sure the product will meet your needs.

Cem Kaner wrote an interesting paper some time back, over ten years ago in fact, on this very topic, regarding automated testing. Though he didn’t’ specifically call out working with SAP, back in those days automated testing was a hot button topic and undoubtedly some efforts were likely made to test the efficacy of some products in working with the SAP GUI.

You can also read SAP mentor Michael Koch’s post on “Shelf ware – the tumbleweed of Enterprise apps”. In that article he outlines how you can AVOID Shelf ware with the following key considerations:

  • Proper Piloting
  • Proper Training

He references an ASUG article by Thomas Wailgum lamenting the unused SAP software in so many organisations.

Fortunately today, with Winshuttle’s product suite as it stands today, an SAP certified product, you get access to a product that is very unlikely to ever be Shelf ware because of its intuitive and basic interface. Best of all, if you’re sitting on the fence, you get to try before you buy!

Whether your commitment to SAP transaction automation is half-hearted or seriously committed; with the flexibility of Winshuttle’s Transaction and Query products you can quickly create a variety of automations and data extractors that are based on the way you work using a combination of the SAP UI, direct table, Infoset and ldb queries or BAPIs and remotely enabled Function Modules. All this is possible even without formal training.

While I have heard of a number of customers that have bought all-you-can-eat Form Filling solutions and workflow products from an array of software providers, many of these powerful products unfortunately don’t get installed or even properly evaluated either because the business doesn’t have the commitment to them or because the cost of implementation has been found to be many time more than the actual list price of the products concerned.

If you’re serious about automation or UI simplification of your SAP business processes you should consider taking Winshuttle products for an evaluation whirl. You’ll find that with little more than an installed copy of Microsoft Office, valid SAP credentials and a desktop installation of Winshuttle’s flagship Transaction authoring product (a less than 100Mb downloadable PC executable package), you will rapidly and elegantly move from manual data entry in cumbersome SAP GUI screens to powerful data push and pull from your SAP ERP all from within a Microsoft Excel centric experience.


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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.


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