Enterprise Software Not Created in IPhone's Image

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I guess you can't call yourself an enterprise software analyst and ignore the Sturm und Drang surrounding Vinnie Mirchandani's recent post, Steve Jobs, we need you? (or something like that).


Vinnie's post does not cite the proximate cause of his rant but the outburst that followed among his admirers -- of which I am one -- and detractors covers so much ground that I had not known where to begin.


So let me just start where he did. The success of the iPhone is the reason for Vinnie's pleadings to Apple's co-founder. But the enterprise software market is not the cell phone market. As I posted when Eric Newcomer wrote about standardizing enterprise software a few weeks ago, the enterprise software market is more like the shoe industry here in Massachusetts before the assembly line.


Or if you prefer, it's still like automobile manufacturing before the automatic starter. Everyone in the enterprise is an IT mechanic and needs to "crank up" their PC each morning. In fact, enterprise software is like the automotive market back when there were still more horses used for transport than cars. It is an extremely componentized market based on a separate integration function and descendant from a long line of non-electronic office equipment, just as the early automotive market offered hundreds of choices, many provided by former -- and even active -- blacksmiths, harness makers and stable owners. Just as the automotive industry was dependent on a separate petroleum refining and distribution market, enterprise software is dependent on IT consulting at all levels.


The thing that will change these dynamics is not a consumer appliance market model -- unless you want one device to accounting, another to do purchasing, and so forth -- but the long-promised software factory discussed when Eric wrote about SOA standards.


As an aside, the fact that one of Vinnie's clients apparently uses dozens of different old packaged software brands and is paying through the nose for subscription maintenance contracts he or she never uses is not an indictment of the enterprise software market, just the client. If the client has little need for maintenance and expects few upgrades, a time-and-materials relationship is the way to go.


(Most of this has probably been said elsewhere but I didn't have time to read all the comments and cross-referenced blog posts related to Vinnie's post. By the way, congratulations to Vinnie on stirring up such a hornet's nest; that's what blogging is all about.)