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Date Submitted: 02/14/2012 02:56 AM

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Cynthia Rettig

The Trouble With Enterprise Software

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The Trouble With Enterprise Software

Technology has always been about hope. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, businesses have embraced new technologies enthusiastically, and their optimism has been rewarded with imp rove d p ro ce s s e s , lower costs and reduced workforces. As the pace of technological innovation has intensified over the past two decades, businesses have come to expect that the next new thing will inevitably bring them larger market opportunities and bigger profits. Software, a technology so invisible and obscure to most of us that it appears to work like magic, especially lends itself to this kind of open-ended hope. Software promises evolutions, revolutions and even transformations in how companies do business. The triumphant vision many buy into is that enterprise software in large organizations is fully integrated and intelligently controls infinitely complex business processes while remaining flexible enough to adapt to changing business needs. This vision of software lies at the core of what Thomas Friedman in “The World Is Flat” calls “the WalMart Symphony in multiple movements — with no finale. It just plays over and over 24/7/365.”1 Whole systems march in lock step, providing synchronized, fully coordinated supply chains, production lines and services, just like a worldclass orchestra. From online web orders through fulfillment, delivery, billing and customer service — the entire enterprise, organized end to end — that has been the promise. The age of smart machines would seem to be upon us. Or is it? While a few companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have achieved something close to that ideal, the way most large...