Thought Leadership

Beware the 'Shelfware Trap'

Caveat Emptor.

Let the buyer beware.

Especially so if you are a purchaser of consulting services and looking for a partner to support with any form of corporate process mapping, clarification of operating procedure, methodological playbook etc.

An increasingly common experience for us at Method Grid is to be called in – by a very frustrated client – on the back of such work where the resultant output has been some form of inert capture e.g. a set of Visio/PowerPoint slides, potentially bound together via a convoluted SharePoint site or an Excel index sheet. This is not digital enablement and the, inevitably, frustrated client at this point has no real ability to bring the captured process/playbook to life i.e. to allow staff to actually collaborate/track/assure their way through such methods. Essentially, they have fallen into the ‘Shelfware trap’ as such delivered projects invariably atrophy and dust gather – through lack of reference/use.

If you are the business (or business unit) owner looking to commission such work, please scrutinise your potential partners – pre commission – to ensure they have thought through the ‘end game’ with respect to such work. Ask to see an example manifestation of the end (usable!) product – beyond slides/diagrams etc. If they can’t ultimately support you into effective digital enablement, you really are at risk of a very poor ROI on your invested professional service spend!

Now, at this point of challenge, non-tech enabled prospect partners will typically say one of two things – along the following lines:

(1) “As process mapping experts, we are deliberately platform/tool agnostic. We will help you find the optimal answer for your contingent needs”

Putting aside, the fact that this point is primarily made because it is often the only recourse for many – they simply do not have any internal, tech-enablement offer. As much as they would love to have, building such platforms/tools requires multi-year investment and they simply do not have the resources/expertise/time to do so.

If the strategy (of deliberately seeking to be tech-agnostic) is pure (rare!) then your retort is to, at least, ask them to guide you in the selection of the most appropriate tech-enablement BEFORE you commission their work (to avoid huge amounts of nugatory/overlapping labour).

(2) “Far better to build out the process/playbook first before we then help you search/select for the optimal tech-enablement solution”

This is also very misleading. More often than not, this introduces huge inefficiency into the overall equation (and, therefore, unwelcome extra cost/complication). With any decent playbook-enablement platform, it is easy and effective to build these playbooks/maps/process-flows straight into the selected platform from the off.

Indeed, this very strategy often supports the collaborative, iterative, easily-amendable nature of such work cf. realising after weeks/months of expensive process mapping that your produced images don’t easily translate into any form of digital enablement. With modern platforms, it is so easy to prototype-build into sandbox accounts from the ‘get go’.

As a counterpoint, the Method Grid team run a free, co-working, prototype-build day with prospect tier one clients and the output of such a single day (especially as AI-enabled) often really surprises business leaders with respect to the depth/quality produced. Such days, invariably, produce very powerful early-manifestation as to what a detailed playbook-solution will look like. So, again, if you hear this retort … many bells (is this approach best value-for-money?) should be ringing in your mind.

In summary, beware the ‘shelfware trap’. If you are commissioning a critical piece of methodology build (to enable shared, common capability), then ensure your partner comes either with the digital solution that fits your needs – or – (if they don’t have one – for pure reasons cf. lazy ones) then they help you select the right platform/tool such that you begin your productive-from-the-start, collaborative co-working by building straight into it.


Connect with the writer of this article, Beware the ‘Shelfware Trap’, Method Grid CEO Dom Moorhouse on LinkedIn.


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