Enterprise Is Not The Word You Are Looking For
Sunday, 15th April 2012
"Enterprise" is an odd word. By definition it means "an undertaking, especially one of some scope, complication, and risk" and can also mean the plan to deal with such an undertaking. The problem is, if you have spent any time in the software industry the word "enterprise" is a ruined husk of disappointment. I have witnessed many implementations of enterprise software, where the term enterprise is used like some kind of grade; a seal of approval that means really big companies can use it. In almost all cases where this term is used, it turns out that the software has all of the following qualities.
"Enterprise" means slow and in every possible way. After taking longer than expected to implement, the day to day performance is normally below what you would expect because the software was written to work for as many big companies as possible and the extensibility pulls against the performance. If your business changes and you need to make an update to the software, you find yourself in a long queue of businesses needing changes and the release-cycle of the software is, well, slow.
"Enterprise" means complicated. Again, this is normally linked to how incredibly extensible or customisable the software is. It can do whatever you want, just as long as you configure it correctly. Doing anything out-of-the-ordinary results in a confusing mess that nobody fully understands.
"Enterprise" means expensive. This is software aimed at the big corporations - the kind of business that doesn't notice a project that costs a million pounds. It doesn't matter how much it costs, because the notion that the software is off-the-shelf means that it must be cheaper than building something from scratch. When you spend this kind of case, it just must be good.
Once a corporation has implemented the enterprise-grade software, it tends to stick around. Even if the project has been a disaster, there is usually very little appetite to try to do it again, even if the business is being paralysed by the enterprise software. It was such hard work to get in that nobody dares take it out. Chances are, it is an irreversible implementation anyway. Even worse, because of the amount of money spent, even if the software is terrible the corporation will try to find more things that can be moved onto the enterprise software, because then they can divide the expense between more projects and make it all look cheaper.
Obviously I can't talk about specific examples as it wouldn't respect the confidentiality of the people I have worked for, but I have seen an "enterprise grade e-commerce website" implementation that accidentally gave away products for free, sold products that weren't in stock and dropped the conversion rate through the floor. I have also witnessed the purchase and implementation of a very poor content management system, which cost tens-of-thousands of pounds plus a hefty annual license, despite having less features than most open-source content management systems and utterly terrible page-load speeds (and probably the nastiest web-address-schema I have ever seen).
So if you think you are looking for something more "enterprise", just be warned that this is not the word you are looking for.