Here Charlie Rose interviews Leo Apotheker, co-CEO of SAP, and Andrew McAfee from Harvard Business School (who spoke at our Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum last year) about enterprise software. The interview begins at 33:00.
It’s interesting that enterprise software is seen as a topic of relevance to a broad audience. Of course it should be, for many reasons, though it is usually seen as an arcane topic. Also good to see that McAfee’s views are getting a broader airing.
A few particularly interesting comments in the interview:
* McAfee says that enterprise software are ‘process factories’ that enable companies to establish their own processes.
* McAfee uses the example of how analysts across US intelligence agencies can now share information as never before.
* Apotheker says that business is now conducted in networks, in which organizations link in loosely coupled forms to create value.
* McAfee draws a distinction between two modes of business: Define upfront and establish tight, clear processes to get there; and allowing value to emerge from undefined processes.
SAP has long talked the language of value networks, and as I have written about before, for example in Chapter 4 of Living Networks, it has early on supported integration between companies’ business processes. However as McAfee points out in the interview, SAP is great at supporting clearly defined processes, but less so at supporting emergent value.
Just as business is becoming less monolithic, software is too, though very gradually. While IBM and Microsoft in particular provide broad suites for Enterprise 2.0, supporting emergent value in organizations, much of the activity in the space is from smaller software providers such as Atlassian, Socialtext, Worklight, and many, many others. SAP is in the process of shifting its attention to this space.
At the outset of the interview Rose mentioned an article I often refer to: Investing in the IT That Makes a Competitive Difference by McAfee and Brynjolfsson in Harvard Business Review July-August 2008. It’s a great counterpoint to Nicholas Carr’s 2003 article IT Doesn’t Matter, and draws out that technology has and will continue to accentuate competitive dynamics, especially in the all-important domain of innovation.