Putting the Enterprise Into the Enterprise System
Drawing on a rich set of company examples, Thomas H. Davenport, a professor at the University of Texas's Graduate School of Business, provides a fresh, high-level perspective on enterprise systems that will help senior executives think rationally about their large-scale investments in this technology. Enterprise systems present a new model of corporate computing. They allow companies to replace their existing information systems, which are often incompatible with one another, with a single, integrated system. By streamlining data flows throughout an organization, these commercial software packages, offered by vendors like SAP, promise dramatic gains in a company's efficiency and bottom line. It's no wonder that businesses are rushing to jump on the ES bandwagon. But while these systems offer tremendous rewards, the risks they carry are equally great. Not only are the systems expensive and difficult to implement, they can also tie the hands of managers. Unlike computer systems of the past, which were typically developed in-house with a company's specific requirements in mind, enterprise systems are off-the-shelf solutions. They impose their own logic on a company's strategy, culture, and organization, often forcing companies to change the way they do business. Managers would do well to heed the horror stories of failed implementations. FoxMeyer Drug, for example, claims that its system helped drive it into bankruptcy. Using examples of both successful and unsuccessful ES projects, the author discusses the pros and cons of implementing an enterprise system, showing how a system can produce unintended and highly disruptive consequences. Because of an ES's profound business implications, he cautions against shifting responsibility for its adoption to technologists. Only a general manager will be able to mediate between the imperatives of the system and the imperatives of the business.
- 1998 Harvard Business School Publishing - HBR
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