In 1929, former Dodge City lawman Wyatt Earp died peacefully in his sleep – a legend of the American “Old West” – and a hero of the famous OK Corral shootout that had happened fifty years before.
Charlie Chaplin met him on a movie set in Hollywood once, and is reported to have said: “You’re the bloke from Arizona, aren’t you? Tamed the baddies, huh?” His biographer portrayed him as “an untarnished hero who tamed bad men of the west with his six shooter and generally left law and order in his wake wherever he went.” Others had different views, and after his biography was published there was an, ahem, “stampede” of critics who attacked what they alleged was a fictitious history.
Well, what do we know for sure about Marshall Earp?
ØHe was pretty well unknown in his own day.
ØBut he had a reputation in some circles as “capable,” “fearless,” “compelling,” and “effective.”
ØHe was misunderstood and many unfavorable allegations of misconduct were made against him – including a tendency to act on his own without due concern for those he worked for.
ØHe was accused of self-aggrandizement, claiming to have contributed far more to peace and good government than he really had.
Well, that’s Wyatt Earp. But what has that got to do with “The Office of the Future?”
What is has to do with that, is that the name of this famous lawman is somewhat reminiscent of “ERP” – AKA (also known as) “enterprise resource planning, a business management system that integrates all facets of the business, including planning, manufacturing, sales, and marketing. As the ERP methodology has become more popular, software applications have emerged to help business managers implement ERP.”
In non-tech talk, this means ERP is an enterprise approach to computing: that applications should support the business, and that applications should be deigned and built to operate as part of an integrated whole. The sheriffs in the ERP drama are, for the most part, SAP, Baan, PeopleSoft and Oracle. These “stars” speak of “supply chain management and optimization,” “data warehousing,” “network resource management,” “logistical management,” and “management and control,” all of which seems to be geared towards “achieving competitive advantage.”
Just about everyone would agree with all that, but then what’s the chit-chat about ERP? Most folks have never even heard of ERP, and of those that have, many have gotten a very distorted story. ERP is often introduced with such attributes as “killer ap,” a term that wiser (and poorer) audiences have heard before. And they heard that term before from those who were promoting solutions – not from those who were involved in either delivering the business or helping define the problem.
The townsfolk have gotten a whole lot more tech-savvy in recent times, and are a whole lot less willing to throw open the saloon doors to any cowboy that wanders into town. Even though the sheriff has a very shiny star and a very large weapon, they are asking if that’s really the solution they need. And if it is in fact a possible solution, they are also asking very cautiously:
ØWhether you really need a “hired gun” or whether you really should be doing ERP yourself (i.e. outsource)
ØWhether you really have to build it all new, or whether you can exploit (leverage) your current investment (i.e. re-engineer)
Those are the questions we are hearing from the townsfolk lounging on the boardwalk in the late summer heat. And those who know something about law enforcement; that is, those whose livelihood depends upon system performance, are sounding a little more cautious – about, for example,
ØWhether one shoe really can fit all in an integrated way (i.e. whether there ever can be “enterprise” computing delivered in a timely way);
ØWhether that one shoe – even if it fits – can serve all of your footwear needs (i.e. support, enhance and expedite diverse business processes); and
ØWhether there is not a grave danger in establishing too tight a relationship with one supplier, one technology or even one system architecture in times of phenomenal change.
The old timers leaning on the hitching post have seen shootouts before. There have been heroes and villains aplenty before Wyatt came to town. And they know that even with Wyatt’s passing there will be many to take his place. What they are really worried about – in these times of pressures for delivery and pressures for economy – is ending up with Wyatt in Boot Hill. Can we get some reassurance from the information technology community that this is a (sound) wave of the future – and not just a blip on the radar screen?