Despite being involved with some radically different Enterprise Software I have been fortunate enough to be frequently invited to study the wares and future plans of many legacy systems vendors.
And of course I’ll be the first to admit that most of the stuff is very good indeed, albeit rather mature and not exactly what Hugh was thinking of when he used the term "being fucking amazing is job one!". Being very good seems to suffice for the best ones.
Core enterprise software usually have hard-to-grasp three letter acronyms – ERP, CRM, HCM, PLM, SCM, SRM. Then you have the non-core but oh so important for Enterprises like Office suites, Project management tools, email and much more.
The vendors claim they deliver a lot of value, and customers pays good money. But let’s say I’m a sceptic and would question that:
First I would split your daily work at an office into two parts:
1) Add value: Create an ad, design a new car, deliver advice – the stuff that your customer is willing to pay for.
2) Make the (value adding) process possible: Distribute work, report, update, ask for updates, find stuff, search for information, communicate, go to meetings, budgeting, creating layout for your content, capture transaction details (accounting) – without which all other work would grind to a halt.
So what do the Enterprise Software really do? Some examples:
HCM – Human Capital Management: What we were looking at last week were typical HR management activities – a flurry of the usual HR terms like appraisal, vacations, hours and bonus came to my screen courtesy of WebEx. Not my usual line of activities, but with large organisations comes rather important HR organisations so I accept there’s a market and value in helping those activities run smoother and take less time. In this particular demo a new UI was the main theme and how the users felt they now could spend less time doing their job. Always good news that for all involved.
CRM – Customer Relations Management: In essence a tool for the sales people to avoid forgetting to call a customer when they said they should. On the other hand it’s supporting the managers so they can have an idea of "what’s in the pipeline" when they’re pestered by their superiors, that on their side is pestered by the board and Wall Street to tell what the future could look like.
Office suites and email: Pretty ‘package’ my creative input, reports or updates, then distribute same.
Recognise something? See a common denominator?
Of course, all falls squarely into part 2) above, the non-value add. Only supporting the work that allows real value-add work to be done.
As ‘Strategy’ is about ‘what value are we to deliver to what customer and how are we going to be different’ one can conclude that (almost) all Legacy Enterprise Software is non-strategic.
It merely supports the old structures and ways that executes strategies and business models today, in exactly the same way using the very same methods we’ve done for thousands of years.
IT is powerful per se, and I’m sure the moment the minds of business can free themselves from old habits and start challenging unconscious assumptions we shall have IT that can execute the strategies and business models and make the work that supports the real work a thing of the past.
That’s when legacy Enterprise Software will be deprived of it’s purpose, not merely become old fashioned or mature, but irrelevant, of no use, history, gone, bye-bye.
P.s. Special message to CIOs: Wouldn’t it be nice to be responsible for the execution of the firm’s strategy and business model instead of merely supporting the work supporting the work? Make the ‘Chief’ part of your title meaningful again?