Every Enterprise IT Department is Like a Start-up – They Have the Same Challenges

I’ve been noticing a lot of comments on enterprise technology on Hacker News and elsewhere about it’s old, boring, and very easy to disrupt. I’d just like to clear the air about a few things.

First, the challenges of providing solutions to the enterprise business organizations are no different than the challenges any good business to consumer start-ups face. A couple of those being:

  1. What on earth is that the business actually want? How do we define? How long will it take? How much does it cost?
  2. Budgets, budgets, and budgets
  3. Security – the single greatest barrier to getting ANYTHING done technically in almost any environment. Imagine dealing with oAuth, but times 100.
  4. What interfaces are supported and connect to each other (Facebook’s API broken again??)

As probably most people would point out, no IT department can afford to house a development team with the likes of development talent at say Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. First, it’s not economically feasible. Second, it would be nearly impossible to attract that level of talent. Third, it’s not a reproducible process that can happen at every company.

So while we hear the massive failures about IT projects everyday, I would argue this is statistically (percentage wise) no different to millions of failing start-ups who don’t make it. This is another reason why many people choose to just use standardized (or “vanilla”) software and then customize it to suite specific business needs.

To take this a step further, I sometimes argue that any good project manager in enterprise IT consulting has the ability to be an entrepreneur. Therefore (like any good market), those that do have the capability to do so are more likely to leave IT consulting and start their own business. Thus reducing a large supply of good project managers.

I feel like I defend enterprise IT, and the reality is I’m not. I think we can do much in enterprise technology, but this requires a massive shift in thinking. Something we are still years away from.