Is It Time to Put an End to the Enterprise?

Ann All

Like most journalists working an industry "beat," I find myself throwing out industry-specific jargon with alarming frequency. And yet it's hard to stop -- even knowing that too much jargon can have ill effects.


So I felt a definite twinge when a fellow IT Business Edge blogger sent me an item from the Information Technology Dark Side blog that makes some interesting points about the word "enterprise," which I use quite often.


Blogger David Christiansen, who according to his profile is a project manager for a Fortune 100 financial services company and thus knows of which he speaks, questions the use of "enterprise" in strong terms. He writes:

... if you're big enough to be considered an enterprise, you're too big to do anything in a unified way without imposing HUGE inefficiencies on yourself. Just putting the word "enterprise" in front of a project increases its cost by at least an order of magnitude. If it costs $1M to implement document management for your billing function, it costs $10M to do it for your whole company.

Just as with fast food meals, super-sizing a project is rarely a good idea, as I blogged back in December. The odds of successfully completing a project are roughly inverse to the number of stakeholders. Scope and costs tend to spiral out of control, and lots of folks end up unhappy.


But is it better for business units to run themselves autonomously, as Christiansen seems to advocate? I don't know. I do know the issue appears to be coming to a head.


A whole new class of emerging technologies like mashups favor a decentralized approach to collaboration and information sharing and promise to put more power in the users' hands. Google is pushing such autonomy with new products like Google Sites. As I blogged back in September, some business units are bypassing IT and going right to the finance folks for approval to buy and deploy departmental applications.


Though there has long been an uneasy relationship between centralized IT and business folks, it appears to be getting more acrimonious all the time. If the two sides can't come to reasonable terms over the use of such new technologies, it will likely further tarnish corporate IT's image.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 19, 2008 7:27 AM Jeff Tendero Jeff Tendero  says:
It depends on the benefits, not the costs. If it costs 10 times more, but delivers 20 times the benefits through the integration of the business, then an enterprise project is worth it. As in all things, it is case by case, and you just need to be aware of the higher risks (and potentially higher returns) of doing things on a larger scale and adjust appropriately. Reply

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