Friday, 27 November 2015

Enterprise systems and other prehistoric beasts

There's something quite impressive about the word enterprise. In it's literal (and noun) form we're talking about a whole of business or whole of organisation type event. Surely in the interest of working together and collaboration we should be aspiring for everything we do and all the systems we use to be 'enterprise'? Unfortunately there's also something of a dark side to enterprise systems; they tend to be big immovable beasts and in an era of technological acceleration that has some serious downside.  Let's look at what makes enterprise systems the 'wrong' choice for lots of organisations:

1) $$$$$$
If you invest thousands, tens of thousands and more in to your system it costs you in more ways than the simple financial way.  It's like joining a club and feeling like you have to go to get your money's worth. That's even worse if you've signed up to something that has you paying for the next 3 years.

2) Removal of Competition
There's a reason why laws exist to prevent monopolies being established and if you take on an enterprise system and immediately rule out all other competitors forever more you've just created one. That lock-in type approach means that you don't even bother looking at what else is going on and what new and innovative things are available and you end up being chained to your enterprise solution.

3) Customisations 
If you're the type of organisation that likes flexibility and a customised service then going down an enterprise route is a real rabbit hole. You make a solution to fit your needs at the time of implementation rather than looking closely at your own systems and methodologies and continuing to look for improvements there. In the long-term you end up with a beast that costs enormous amounts to upgrade and usually ends up growing more and more out of date.

4) We're a XYZ organisation
If you use this expression with words like Microsoft or Adobe then welcome to the world of vendor lock-in and inflexibility. Don't get me wrong, I regularly use products from both, but if your organisation is locked-in to a system then you are really limiting your ability to look at other technologies out there. If your IT dept uses the 'we're a XYZ organisation' type phrase then you want to avoid piling on another heavy system that limits your options. In fact if your IT department makes your system decisions then definitely steer away from making another decision which will dictate the options forever more.

5) We host our own systems in-house
The issues with in-house systems are many and varied. Firstly just because you can host something yourself doesn't mean you should or that you are able to at a high enough service to meet the demands of users.  Secondly you tend to be limited by the technologies you know (eg Linux or Windows based), thirdly you invest heavily into something you take care of yourself and are therefore more likely to resist moving away from it, there's the issues of accessibility, connecting systems etc etc etc. For me the most important thing though is the inefficiency of it. Sure hosting yourself can be cheaper if you're geared up for it, but the purchase and maintenance of the hardware to match the services you would get from a SaaS or Cloud provider often make it much more expensive. It also tends to push you towards an all-in-one solution, more on that next.

6) Firing the silver bullet
If you're looking for the one system that does everything to solve your problems as an organisation then welcome to the silver bullet solution trap. Let me let you into a secret; the silver bullet does not exist and if you buy one it's likely more akin to a white elephant than a silver bullet. All-in-one systems are generally about as useful as all-in-one outfits and the system you end up with is often not quite what you had in mind.  Even if it's an amazing solution for now, your needs will change and will the one system be able to change all its facets to meet your demands moving forwards. Just because you bought system A from a provider doesn't mean system B from the same provider will work as well for you or talk to A any better than someone else's system. 

In final my advice is to look and always look about what's coming and what you can leverage. Once upon a time all these tools were expensive and vendors tried desperately hard to lock you in so they could keep your custom. Nowadays there's a proliferation of SaaS and Cloud solutions that are available at a fraction of the fees to put an enterprise system in place so why limit yourself too quickly.

Of course I could be completely wrong - reply if you think so!