Shelfware syndrome: using NPM/APM solutions to successfully avoid it

Shelfware syndrome affects most organizations

Shelfware syndrome is a fact of life for most organizations, irrespective of their size. Did you know that:

  • 93% of the organizations surveyed are wasting piles of money on unused or underused application software, otherwise known as “shelfware” 
  • “20% of the organizations surveyed reported a loss over 1m$.” (source: Flexera)

 In real life:

Shelfware syndrome is bad

CIO: We have the shelfware syndrome! Is it bad, doctor?

Doctor: it could have been worse: it is not vaporware… The shelfware syndrome is common and can be cured.

CIO: what can we do?

Doctor: Shelfware means that you acquired and sometimes installed software, that is not used anymore. It is a big loss, but it has been lost already… There is nothing we can do about it: You should try to understand where and how you caught it to avoid any relapse in the future.

Did you know that the troubleshooting, visibility, network performance management (NPM), application performance management (APM), and performance monitoring are directly impacted by this plague?

Accedian pays special attention to making sure the disease does not infect its partners and customers. In fact, we thought it would be worthwhile sharing some of that thinking with you!

Top 5 reasons that monitoring tools end up on a shelf

1- Not used often enough

You ordered software for a specific use case: this use case is obsolete and/or is so unfrequent that your team does not have enough practice to use the solution fluently.

2- Too complex

Although it may be powerful, a solution cannot be complex, unless it is mission-critical (and deserves massive training and attention) and is used frequently. Any solution that is too complex and is not mission-critical will end up being used by a very restricted group of users or, sometimes,… no one at all.

3- One person business

When a solution is mostly used by one person (for a niche utilization), beware that in case this person moves on to another role, job, or company, there is a big chance no one will pick up on the administration of the solution soon enough to maintain its use.

4- Focused on one project

Many troubleshooting, monitoring, visibility solutions get purchased for a specific situation (critical issue with a key application roll-out, infrastructure migration, merger). In that case, there is a huge risk that once this project has been released… the solution is not used anymore.

5- IT pace of change

With faster than ever corporate (merger, acquisitions, etc.), business (new services, new applications), and technical pace of change (DevOps, Dynamic infrastructure), many solutions become obsolete for 3 reasons:

  1. They are not fit for next-generation infrastructures (e.g. physical appliances in virtual and cloud data centers) and cannot easily be redeployed in these environments.
  2. They work on a configuration that requires many man hours and … should be changed frequently.
  3. They do not easily scale up (upgrading requires a new integration, changing the complete installation, losing history, etc…)

Best practices: Focus on the later stage of the lifecycle of your solutions

What should I do to avoid the shelfware syndrome “infection”? You need to develop a vision of how the product will live and evolve, how it will benefit your operations, and by whom it will be used day-to-day. When looking for new solutions, your due diligence must go beyond features and capabilities advertised and even demonstrated in a proof of concept (PoC) or an evaluation; you need to figure out how your team is going to use the solution day-to-day, what it is going to be used for, and by whom.

Staying safe from shelfware syndrome

Getting your team and your tools working together is key to staying away from Shelfware.Here are some simple recommendations to make sure you are not impacted:

1) Used by teams / across teams

The wider the use of a solution, the more use cases it addresses, the higher the chances that the solution remains in use and delivers/exceeds your ROI expectations.You should avoid having tools used by a single person and as much as possible try to increase the tools’ usage by multiple teams (telecom, network, system, helpdesk, QA, etc.)

2) Easy to use – easy on onboarding

  • It is the effort required for a user/administrator, to learn to use the solution and become efficient in delivering his/her tasks with it? What are the skills required to leverage the solution?
  • Do you have to be an expert? Will there always be experts in that field in-house?
  • What is the cost of restricting the use of a solution to experts only?

An easy onboarding is a key to widening the group of users of a network and application visibility solution and strengthening its return on investment (ROI).

3) Minimize the configuration work required

What is going to be the cost of every change?As an example, suppose you want to monitor a new application: how much time is required to get visibility on it?

  • Instantly (you get that visibility without any prior action)
  • 1-5 minutes
  • 1-4 hours
  • Several days

These are questions you should consider before acquiring a solution, to qualify what the cost/workload of maintaining the solution up to speed with your IT changes will be.

4) “Doing the job” is not enough: it should make the job easier and minimize workload

During your analysis phase, you should not only consider the data you are getting from the tool (or you can get from the tool) but also how much effort and time is required to get the answer and what skills are required to get them. Remember that a lot of troubleshooting cases with complex to use solutions do not only take time… but are in the end abandoned after a long time investment. 

5) From a one-off fire-fighting to daily operations

Firefighting a long lasting – strong impact performance issue is a common and legitimate reason to acquire a troubleshooting/monitoring solution, which was until then missing. The case showed the lack of it and implementing a solution is probably a good response.The use of the solution (and its ROI) will continue, if and only if it is used as part of your daily IT operations to reduce MTTR on a regular basis and handle changes such as a change in capacities, roll-outs, and migrations.

6) Temporary need, use a temporary service

If you have a punctual need and feel you have too limited resources and skills in-house, you should consider
buying a service from a specialized service company rather than investing into something your team will not exploit at its maximum.

7) Vendor’s focus on customer success

Consider how the vendor/integrator will help in making sure the solution is actually delivering ROI.

You should ask questions on how your vendor/integrator can help overcome the challenge of shelfware:

  • How can you help us train newcomers?
  • How can you make sure our solution remains aligned to new use cases and new infrastructure/application configurations?
  • How much effort will this require? how about costs?
  • What percentage of your customers renew their maintenance and keep using your solutions?
  • What processes have you got in place to maximize this?
  • How can I upgrade? revamp the solution for a newer configuration? what are the conditions and costs attached to that?

For every project, we ask ourselves these questions; do not hesitate to engage with us to discuss this further.If you lack skills, resources, have a temporary need or need to take a new perspective to avoid falling victim to shelfware syndrome, we advise you take a look at how you can use SkyLIGHT PVX as a service