In Enterprise Software, What Goes Around Comes Around... and Around... and Around

Dennis Byron

Buzzwords du jour circle around endlessly in the technical press. For example, here is the takeaway from a story that ran September 15, 2009 in InformationWeek:


"A panel of software industry veterans at the InformationWeek 500 conference today argued that the old, on-premises enterprise software model is nearing the end of the line. Taking its place: Web-based software and cloud computing the cloud has "time shifted" the procurement of enterprise applications"


And here's the gist of a Computerworld story that popped up on my Google alert screen at the same time this morning:


"Suppliers of enterprise resource planning software are headed for a dead end Why do I now pronounce the ERP era as coming to an end? The answer is Web-based services that can deliver integration of dissimilar systems. Web services make it possible for corporations to plug into best-of-breed suppliers for rapid acquisition of innovative applications. Web services enable pilot tests that can verify performance before the company commits to implementationWeb services promise a way to reduce huge development budgets. Web services avoid the shock of forced insertions commonly associated with all ERP ventures because they can be trickled into the workplace as the workforce is ready to absorb changes. Web services smooth the migration from hard-to-manage (and insecure) client/server environments to outsourced network service providers that offer the protection of experienced security staffs."


Interestingly the Computerworld article is dated May 12, 2003. And prophetically, its author went on to ask the right question:


"Why then is the adoption of Web services so slow?"


The question is as relevant in 2009 as it was in 2003. But the author comes up with the wrong way to look at IT adoption, in my opinion. He says:


"Organizations can shift to Web service-based integration only after they restructure the way IT is managed and shift attention from computing to communications. They must also accept a move away from ownership of the means of computing and be willing to purchase most of their transactions as a service.


The author of the 2003 Computerworld article is identified as Paul Strassmann, and the article says he is or was a CIO. I believe he is the former CIO of Xerox, General Foods, Kraft and a few other large enterprises, but I cannot verify that it is the same Strassmann. But if I am right, the fact that he is IT oriented and oriented to large enterprises and manufacturing is the reason his answer is the wrong way to look at Web services (SaaS, cloud computing, on-demand or whatever you want to call it).


The idea of handling IT transactions as a service has always been accepted by smaller enterprises, in the services industries - especially financial services and health care delivery, and by non-IT management - especially in human resources.


Shifting from one technology (computing) to another (telecommunications) is not the answer. Shifting from thinking about technology to thinking about the enterprise's needs is the real answer. Get ahead in IT by becoming the IT guy that understands the business.

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