andrew burke





Enterprise Software - like on the spaceship, right?

Posted on: 2007-09-20

Great blog post on what 'Enterprise Software' means.

The nontechnical background of many managers, in addition to the perverse incentives in many managerial structures, often allow enterprise software to sell well even if it does not work at all, no matter how much effort is applied.

... Managers who aren't technically well-informed enough to select the software in the first place will also not be well-informed enough to distinguish between competent consultants and incompetent consultants, so both competent and incompetent consultants will flourish --- but the competent ones will eventually get sick of it and go elsewhere.

The real difference is social, not in the software itself - 'Enterprise' means that it costs a lot and has a whole ecosystem of experts and consultants, and it often doesn't matter if it works well or at all since it's so big it can't be trashed without a lot of high-up corporate types losing face.

One of my favourite examples of this kind of boondoggle happened just up the street from me at the Ontario Government a few years ago. The Toronto Star had a great set of articles on this, but they're behind a paid subscription wall. Instead, here's a Press Release complaining about the system in 2001, when it was $13 million over its $180 million budget, and here's an item from a few years later after the budget bloomed to $284 million, and Accenture was punished with a $32 million maintenance contract. ComputerWorld covers the fact that the system couldn't handle rate changes without ripping out the plumbing at great cost.

... and this is what Accenture has to say about it. They won all sorts of awards for this project from groups like the Canadian Council for Private-Public Partnerships. Must have been before the audit.

Of course, it's always worse when politics gets mixed in with 'enterprise' computing and bureaucracy - just look at the Gun Registry. Here's a taste:

A large part of the $2 billion expense is a computer system that's supposed to track registered guns, according to one document. Officials initially estimated it would cost about $1 million. Expenses now hover close to $750 million and the electronic system is still not fully operational.

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