When you start comparing enterprise resource planning and business software options, one of the first questions you will need to ask is this: “Are we looking for an all-in-one suite or are we looking to mix and match single-focused products?”
At MIBAR, we have been in the business of implementing enterprise software and supporting customers for nearly three decades, and understand that every business has different needs satisfied by different products. We’ve also been in this business long enough and jumped in to save enough implementations from failure to know that sometimes resellers don’t build relationships on trust, communication, and honesty.
Over the past few months, we’ve been working on a series on “NetSuite Myths,” common tactics used to attack the “big dog” of the ERP world. From the mundane to the egregious, our goal in this series is to provide as much transparency as possible, allowing you to make an informed and confident decision based on trust—not one based on exaggerations or downright lies.
Following our recent blogs debunking the commonly held opinion that NetSuite is too big for growing SMBs, tackling the myth that suites are any harder to implement than “best of breed” applications, and refuting exaggerations about integration, we would today like to turn our attention to another problematic statement used to instill fear into purchasers and executives.
Similar to the last two myths, this one is built on the misconception that a “best of breed” software is less risky. This strawman is no more logically correct than it is factual but has swayed decision makers nonetheless. Today, we would like to discuss the shelfware myth.
The Shelfware Myth
You’re going to see this one pop up from time to time, using the following logic: “Suites are robust and offer a lot of functionality, but how much of it are you actually going to use? You can implement, train, and offer ultimatums, but end users are going to gravitate to products that work for them, resulting in certain modules and features getting shelved—hence the term ‘shelfware’.”
Below, we will discuss the definitions of shelfware, the tactics used to spread this myth, and the reasons this myth is wrong.
What is Shelfware?
Before we dig into how the myth spread and spend time debunking the falsehood, we first need to clarify what shelfware is and why a “best of breed” vendor or reseller would misclassify a suite as such.
Shelfware is a colloquialism in the information technology community used to refer to software or hardware that goes ignored (gets shelved) by end users. Depending on how it’s used, shelfware could mean something as innocent as “unused licenses received as part of a volume discount,” or could also be used more nefariously, as is done when resellers attempt to attack suites.
When resellers use the latter connotation to attack suites, it’s not an argument in good faith. In fact, it’s built on a faulty premise.
So, what kind of tactics do resellers and vendors of “best of breed” software use when making an attempt to compare themselves to a suite?
The Box of Chocolates Attack: Unused Functionality
“Life is like a box of chocolates… You’re probably going to test some of the flavors and throw them out.”
One of the most common attacks used to attack suites is the unused functionality attack. This is the first argument made, because it usually sets the stage for additional attacks. By attempting to convince you that a module or a feature will go unused, they will often jump to an attack on ‘cost’ or go so far as bringing up Shadow IT.
Why It’s Wrong
The path to purchase and implementation for enterprise software is often lengthy—with good reason. An implementation partner with the right approach is going to get to know your business, find out exactly what you need, teach you what’s important, and help end users understand why the move is going to ultimately benefit them.
The Cable TV Attack: Paying for Bundles
“Don’t you hate it when you have to pay for all of those cable stations you’ll never watch? Luckily, with [product], you get to build your perfect package.”
Similar to the now-debunked integration myth, this is built on the same ‘fear of missing out’ approach used to pitch you on inch-wide, mile-deep software.
Why It’s Wrong
Again, this approach comes down to the company you keep. Just as we discussed in the integration myth, the right partner isn’t going to sell you on every single module and feature that you could possibly use.
For instance, if your users are accustomed to a specific sales tax platform, CRM, or travel and expense management software, it’s a near certainty that one of NetSuite’s other 40,000+ customers have as well. You can still build your perfect package. That said, we are firm believers in NetSuite’s capabilities and have found that many users enjoy the benefits of a unified, single-UI product more than they would having to jump between 10 apps to do a simple job.
The “Users Are Stuck in Their Ways” Attack: Shadow IT
“If you select a suite, users are going to balk at the experience. People are going to use what works for and is comfortable for them.”
This is a multi-layered argument and is used to convince buyers and IT leaders that users will seek workarounds to avoid change by any means necessary. It attacks everything about a suite from the functionality to the user experience, and it leverages the very-real fear that companies have about data breaches. By seeking out these workarounds, they posit, the end users are exposing a company’s data infrastructure.
Why It’s Wrong
While we will debunk this in full at a later date, we will briefly touch on it here. This argument is not only wrong, it really says something about the company making it.
- First, it attacks a product with a single, flexible, and user-friendly interface used for multiple purposes. While an end user may not love the layout of one module, the assumption this “best of breed” reseller is making is that “everyone loves [complementing product x].” How long until you make a new hire that doesn’t?
- Second, it’s worth repeating that if everyone wants to use a specific product, there’s likely a “workaround” to connect it with NetSuite that’s verified and secure.
- Third, the premise that users are going to be hesitant to change is nothing new—regardless of whether you choose a suite or a “best of breed” software. Multinational, heavily regulated enterprises still have employees who swear by Excel for everyday tasks.
- Fourth, it pays to work with the right partner. Any positive change is going to have people who resist. This is a challenge of any implementation project, and the right partner is one who can help your company lead not only a software change, but a cultural change as well.
- Fifth, it’s worth noting that if users balk at learning one new software, how are they going to feel about learning many different ones?
The Verdict: Pants on Fire
The shelfware myth is a prevalent myth in the software community, and is repeated often enough to convince people that it’s true. At MIBAR, we have been in this business long enough to know that if someone is willing to lie to get a sale, they might not be the right company for the job. Remember, the truth comes out, and the right implementation partner is going to warn you of the risks, walk you through the processes, and make sure they are the right people for the job before they even start.
We invite you to learn more about our work with NetSuite, learn about some of the other myths being discussed, and read our recent blog on why it’s so important to find an honest, straightforward implementation partner.