Can software be considered disposable, and can it cause waste?
Before we dive into the new era of disposable goods, let’s look back at the introduction of disposable consumer packaging. The end of World War II brought about an economic boom putting never seen strain on both the supply and demand of the U.S. industrial infrastructure. In order to keep up with the demand, producers of consumer staples such as food and toiletries saw a change from renewable packaging (i.e. glass or cardboard) to less sustainable alternatives; enter plastics.
Around this same time, LEO, the first commercially available business computer became available. Since LEO’s release, foreign manufacturing and mass adoption have led to the mass competition for enterprise technology. Unlike LEO, the computers we use now can run millions of different software applications. Today’s computers are also replaced entirely with the newest model rather than upgrading specific components.
According to Gartner’s ‘Top Strategic Technology Trends For 2022’, “Organizations have a tremendous amount of ‘collective’ debt…. The cause is an extensive and expensive set of business processes underpinned by a patchwork of technologies that are often not optimized, lean, connected, consistent or explicit.” The root cause of this observation is a result of the introduction of disposable hardware AND software for enterprise.
As an example, approvals that once may have previously involved stepping into your boss’s office or leaving a document for them to sign on their desk now involves emails, DocuSign, additional approvers, possibly more software. While society is beginning to understand the adverse effect of disposable waste at a more tangible consumer level, the debt created by 100,000’s of enterprise licenses is yet to be unraveled.
For lean, procurement, and supply chain professionals trapped in tens, hundreds, possibly thousands of different software or other enterprise technology, the most immediate wins will come from consolidation. This doesn’t only mean leaning more on your IT VAR Partners, but also understanding where software capabilities may now be duplicative. For example, does your company purchase Gmail licenses while also purchasing Microsoft Excel? While there are differences in the capabilities, most users can get away with either program.