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BOFH: The unwanted software compo

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Episode 38

"So let me get this straight," the Boss says, looking at his email to the PFY's latest masterpiece. "You're proposing a software... amnesty?"

"Yes," the PFY answers.

"And what's a software amnesty when it's at home?"

"It's a chance for people to turn in software they don't use any more," I explain. "So maybe you bought a product from somewhere and never actually got around to using it, either because it was hard work or because you just couldn't be stuffed learning how to use it properly."

"Like Microsoft Project," the PFY says.

"Or maybe you used it once, but it was such a bloody nightmare that you quietly deleted it off your machine and never told anyone about it."

"Like Windows ME," the PFY adds.

"Or maybe a manager of a group decided that they were going to make a change that mattered and move all their people some new version of something but before that could happen he was..."

"Pushed down the stairs," the PFY interjects.

"I was going to say 'told that the company was moving in another direction'."

"So what will this achieve, just finding out what people aren't using?"

"Partly, but also it helps us in the event that someone else in the company ever wants to buy some software again - as we can give them one of the returned pieces of software instead of then having two people hiding their bad software purchases."

"Sell them one of the returned pieces of software," the PFY comments.

"Yes of course."

"So how does this help the company?" the Boss asks.

"Because we don't end up buying more copies of software and we have lots more room in the bottom drawers of filing cabinets," I respond. "Nothing gets on my tits more than buying yet another copy of some software from some supplier when there's an unused one sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere. The bloody vendors love it, of course! And if you ring them and ask how many licenses you have you hit that particular portion of their brain affected by amnesia - they've no idea - until the annual maintenance payments are due..."

"But don't we just end up rebuying the software from ourselves?"

"We do, but this way keeps the money inside the company."

"Till 4pm on a Friday," the PFY adds.

"At which time it's reinvested in company morale," I concur.

"So you're planning to just drink the money away?"

"Uh huh," the PFY responds.

"I think I've got a better idea," the Boss says, rubbing his chin. "Let's talk to the finance people and see if we can't get cost centres paid some nominal fee for returning their software."

"I don't -"

"PLUS they get an extra, larger payment - say half the product's current buy price if the software is subsequently required in-house. That way they're getting an incentive to return software."

"What if they subsequently realise that they need the software after all? Won't we look bad?"

"No, because we saved them rebuying it at retail anyway - and as you say, it keeps money inside the company."

Both the PFY and I are not sure the Boss has fully understood the alcoholic beverage supply aspect of this proposed idea.

"I still don't think it will motivate people," the PFY says, changing tack.

"What about if we had a prizes - for the group who returned the most value, and the group who bought the most from the available software pool?" the Boss gasps enthusiastically - not really realising that all this project is really going to achieve is the unearthing of a large portion of the worst software in history...

"How would that work?" the PFY says.

"We'd calculate the value of the software they returned and the group that returned the most would earn a prize. And we'd also calculate the value of the software that groups bought from the pool and give a prize for that too - maybe 100 quid on the bar."

"Ah," the PFY says, keenly interested in the money-on-the-bar idea. "Two lots of 100 quid. Hmmm. But in the latter example wouldn't people just buy up vast quantities of crap software from the pool to win the prize, leading to exactly the same situation as before?"

"No!" the Boss snaps, waggling a finger. "They'd have to show a real business case - and we could verify it."

"It's not a bad idea," the PFY nods.

"I can't fault it," I say.

"I'll send the message out now," the Boss says, after making a few additions and modifications to the text.

. . . Three days later . . .

"I can't believe it!" the Boss burbles, wading through the piles of software clogging up Mission Control.

"I know," the PFY says. "We could almost open our own Symantec store!"

"I was thinking of applying for a Microsoft Reseller certification," I say from behind a mound of Vista install media.

"So which group's winning?" the Boss asks.

"Well it was a close race," the PFY says. "Because it looks like one of the Beancounters had his heart set on a Lotus Notes and Novell installation, but there was an incredibly large trunk of enough OS2 Warp install media to serve two thirds of the company - which no one's owned up to."

"So who won?"

"Well..." the PFY says. "It was us."

"You?" the Boss gasps.

"Yes, well when you factor in all the Server OS, Database, ERP licenses that we traded in when we went virtual, we won by miles."

"But..."

"I know, it hardly seems fair - but bear in mind that the company will now be able to use all those licenses for new services."

"I suppose you'll be wanting the 100 quid," the Boss sighs, admitting defeat quite quickly, really.

"That would do nicely," the PFY sniffs, as we choose that moment to break for a liquid lunch courtesy of the company.

. . .

"So," I say, as we down the first company-funded pint. "Any idea how we're going to get the second 100 quid?"

"No idea," the PFY says. "Though I did happen to make a quick call to the piracy hotline about someone running a stack of servers with no licensing earlier this morning. By my reckoning I expect we'll be back here next Tuesday."

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