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Enterprise Management Services: An Introduction

The labels we assign to things have a lot to do with how we perceive them.

In the early days of IT we often called the function and/or department that designed and built automated information systems ‘Data Processing’.  Over the ensuing decades, the label has generally evolved from Data Processing, to ‘Information Systems’, to ‘Management Information Systems’, to the current ‘Information Technology’.

Our attraction and fascination with technology tends to blind us from looking at the basic pervasive problems of the IT industry.  We seemed to have evolved to the point where there is an almost dogmatic belief that our economic and social wellbeing is totally dependent on developing and/or owning “the latest and greatest technology”.  If you have a problem, technology will solve it…. guaranteed”.  The situation has even progressed to where almost any new innovation or invention is called a “technological advancement”.

May I dare say that a new idea or advancement in the way we do something more efficiently or effectively may not involve a “technological advancement”!  The Information systems industry has become so obsessed with technology that it now almost universally likes to be known as the “Information Technology (IT)” industry or profession.  Developing a better way to identify and design business processes, or developing a better way to model data, does not mean that a new or improved technology has taken root.

Accountants count things.  Engineers design things. Construction companies build buildings. Insurance companies insure things. Doctors practice medicine. These people or enterprises may employ automation and IT to do what they do; however, their knowledge and skill precedes the advent or use of technology to perhaps improve their productivity or quality of output. 

I will suggest that the people currently working in what we commonly refer to as the “IT world” deliver—or should deliver—applications and databases that provide the infrastructure and the services to support the effective and efficient operation and management of the enterprise.  I would even go as far to say that we should call this function “Enterprise Management Services”, not Information Systems or Information Technology.

It is not enough, of course, to just change the label; unless we are just trying a new marketing angle because the old label has become passé or the thing that the label refers to is defective or doesn’t work anymore!  Sometimes a new name/label helps people to think about something they know differently; and more importantly, to set forth a change, a re-invention or renaissance if you will, of what we already know—such as what we know today (i.e. 2011) as “IT”.  Perhaps the label, “Enterprise Management Services” would better communicate what enterprises need and what contemporary IT should be striving to deliver.

As we know, there is an IT industry that designs and builds information technology—computers, operating systems, communications hardware and software, telephones, storage devices, etc.  However, just as carpenters are very knowledgeable about carpentry tools and their use, carpenters are not called “Carpenter Technology”; they are called “Carpenters”.  As a matter of fact, if you want a house, you typically would not go to just a Carpenter, you would go to an “Architect”, who would design your house, and then eventually to a “Home Builder” who would construct your house.  This is because a house requires more than a Carpenter; it also requires an Electrician, a Plumber, and maybe even a Landscaper.   A Home Builder (a.k.a. General Contractor) integrates all of these trades for the purpose of building you a house.  A house is like a system with several sub-systems, integrated to function cohesively as a house.

An enterprise is also a system comprised of several sub-systems which should all be functioning in a cohesive, integrated manner.  As we are slowly coming to understand, an enterprise—especially an efficient, effective, high-performance enterprise—needs to be architected, designed, and constructed to be an efficient, effective, and high-performance enterprise.  Therefore, what are needed are concepts, a function, and an organization capable of acting as the “General Contractor for the Enterprise”. 

Some people may assert that “management” is, or should be, considered as the enterprise’s General Contractor.  However, under the current approach—either through IT itself, or through the actions of the enterprise management—the existing concepts, functions, and organizational structures often result in a different “General Contractor” being assigned responsibility to “build” each room in the “house” (i.e. the enterprise).  Even more problematic, each “General Contractor” tends to have different capabilities, skills, competencies, and motivations.  This situation tends to result in rather inconsistent, fragmented enterprises.

It is also important to note that enterprise managers are enterprise operators, not enterprise architects.  Airplane architects and engineers design and build airplanes; under normal circumstances, they do not “operate” them.  Building Architects design and guide the construction of buildings and, again under normal circumstances, they do not occupy nor “operate” the buildings.  “Operating” is not the same as “architecting”, “designing”, or “building” something!

I believe that a major step forward would be to have a well-developed enterprise data and business process architecture.  This architecture should be based on concepts and principles that would ensure that the enterprise architecture and its physical manifestation in the form of enterprise databases and applications that were designed to be empirically sound, comprehensive, stable, and capable of serving the needs of the “enterprise operators” (i.e. management) over a long period of time.

Consequently, perhaps the moment has arrived to move beyond IT and call the function that architects, designs and constructs the enterprise; and that provides the “services” needed by the enterprise management, the “operators of the enterprise”—Enterprise Management Services.

Enterprise Management Services is the function most recently known as the Information Technology function, which used to be known as Information Systems, and before that Data Processing.  However, it is very much evolved beyond the current state of what is currently known as Information Technology.  However, Enterprise Management Services is much evolved beyond its previous incarnations.

Enterprise Management Services is qualified and capable of architecting an enterprise from the ground up.  IT, and its predecessors, basically designed and built pieces of an enterprise without the guidance of an enterprise architecture, one piece at a time based on some organizational sponsorship; one after the other, over a long period of time.

Enterprise Management Services is qualified and capable of designing and developing the applications and databases that are architecturally consist with the enterprise architecture; not compromised by arbitrary actual or assumed direction or funding influences which are at play in the IT world we know today.  

I will post some additional thoughts in the weeks to come regarding ENTARCO’s vision for Enterprise Management Services going forward.  In the meantime, I look forward to your comments, ideas, and feedback!

Douglas T. Erickson

President, ENTARCO USA Inc.

© 2011, ENTARCO USA Inc.

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