IT and evolution

Today we’re going to have a heart-to-heart about evolution. No, I’m not touching the religious issues. What I want to discuss is enterprise IT evolution.

When we talk about enterprise IT we have a set of ideas in mind about what it means. These ideas are about scaling to encompass the enterprise, integration with existing and new services and software, support of business processes and, most importantly, about manageability.

The thinking has been that big, all-encompassing solutions deployed in enterprises can and will provide, in effect, a single vehicle that can carry all or the majority of users and their business goals to cost effectiveness nirvana.


We now know, after almost four decades of enterprise-scale corporate networking, that that particular vision of nirvana is, for all intents and purposes, an illusion. It has been a particularly well-marketed illusion, I grant you, but an illusion nevertheless.

Quick survey: Hands up everyone who has had a truly successful enterprise application deployment. I am talking about something that services a really large user population and delivers the ROI that you expected it to. Ah, yes, as I expected, a small show of hands and, I suspect, a lot of those hands are only raised out of political expediency. That’s particularly true for all of you who went for top-end enterprise CRM installations that never worked properly.

For those of you with your hands up because of your “successful” Notes installation, you know as well as I do that for the majority of your users Notes isn’t really a groupware solution, it’s really an e-mail system. Why? Because its groupware features were a bag of bolts that could only ever be used to build Frankenware. But you still have it, don’t you?

Now let’s turn to those of you with your hands raised over your “highly effective” big network management systems. I’ve recently been looking at management systems and tools that can do what your “I’ve-got-state-of-the-art-management-straight-off-the-Starship-Enterprise-and-I’m-just-like-Captain-Kirk” system can do for a tenth of the price!

“Now look here,” you might well be expostulating in aggrieved tones, “my network management system is amazing! It can . . . ” No, no! Stop right there. As good as it might have been, I’m betting that you are harboring a dinosaur and you just won’t or can’t admit it.

You see, since the good old days the world’s moved on pretty fast and today we can do things with white box and off-the-shelf hardware and low-cost software that you wouldn’t have believed possible when we were all young and beautiful (OK, just when we were young).

The problem for most of us is we simply don’t have the intestinal fortitude to shoot our dinosaurs and move on. Look at your budget. See that line item for US$20,000 for software maintenance of your big network management system? That alone would pay for replacing the fossilized systems, and what you’d save in manpower running them would finance implementing the new stuff.

So why aren’t we doing something so blindingly obvious? Is it politics as I suggested earlier? Was it your boss who brought in that enterprise solution and to suggest getting rid of it would open a can of worms? Or are you the one that justified it, sold it internally, and to dump it would be an admission of failure?

Ladies and gentlemen we’re in a crucial phase in the evolution of IT and we’ve got to get Darwinian on our old thinking and old solutions. So, hands up all of you who can adapt and survive.

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