Enterprise slugfest!

Posted: June 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Work | No Comments »

Dennis and Robert seem to have had a spat, I’m not sure why but from where I sit it looks like each is claiming they have the skinny on what enterprises are truly like. I’m sure their perspectives are based on real experiences, but are they valid? I don’t follow Scoble, I think it’s just because I’m a bit of a contrarian – he’s just too popular and doesn’t need my subscription, thank you. I have read in his “About…” that Dennis used to work in the enterprise space, so I’ll take that at face value and give him the benefit of street cred.

Me, I spent almost a decade at Citigroup moving around doing advanced technology, corporate services ERP stuff and enterprise portals. Since I left there last year I’ve worked on strategy and design deliverables for 5 or 6 Fortune 50s. Enterprises are complex and messy places. Any time you drop into one of them, it’s like quantum physics: you’re seeing a tiny slice of a much larger cosmos, you’ve altered reality just by being there, and the rest of it often behaves very differently. Any conclusion you reach is severely limited.

Granted, senior folks are critical if you’re a vendor or responsible for a delivering a strategy. But these beasts have sprawling, complex cultures and politics. Interviewing CIOs, CTOs COOs will NOT, I repeat, NOT give you deep insights into how an enterprise really gets things done or how it behaves. The Corporate HQ is often quite a cocooned place. Yet spending time on the ground in a single BU or geography will not be representative of how the rest of the organization works either.

I don’t know why but I find the ‘sez you-whadda you know-let me tell you what it’s really like’ kind of funny. But I know that what I know about enterprises is that it’s like trying to comprehend the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It’s so big your mind just kind of goes “tilt”. Don’t assume that because you’re familiar with a part of it that it represents the whole.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this a lot lately and sharing these thoughts with my colleagues. On the consulting side it’s common to be working in a company with a bunch of folks who just can’t shoot straight, and then read somewhere about how this same company is a trailblazer in some fabulous bleeding edge space that lights up the Twitterverse. It’s a dichotomy we’d all do well to be mindful of.