What Your IT Manager Can Learn from the US Constitution

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One of my favorite parts of learning is making connections between seemingly unrelated things.

Here’s one. 

Half of all enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems fail. Why? Often they do not account for the company’s way of doing things. Or they do not account for differences between different divisions of an organization.  

Like an ERP, a constitution is not one-size-fits-all.

The best constitutions emerge from local customs and norms. Taking one ERP and hoisting it onto an organization may not work, in the same way that hoisting the American constitution onto other countries often results in failure.

Different cultures within the organization we might compare this to the various regions and cultures of a modern nation-state.

To solve the problem of differences in local logic, the American constitution has enumerated powers and a bare-bones framework. Only certain tasks are given to the federal government; others are left to the states. It is an incredibly Spartan document.

Perhaps the same should be true of an ERP. Think of different divisions of a company as different states and the ERP as a unifying coordination mechanism. Maybe the best ERP has very few enumerated tasks and the rest are left to the local divisions.

As coordination mechanisms, there are many similarities between constitutions and information systems. 

The American constitution, spartan and rigorous, has been humming along for over two hundred years — with almost no down time! This is nearly unprecedented in history. What does this have to do with the price of ERPs? 

Maybe something. 

 

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