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“A Tale Full of Sound and Fury” by Paul Saunders

by Debbie Wilson  |  August 9, 2019  |  Comments Off on “A Tale Full of Sound and Fury” by Paul Saunders

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare – Macbeth


I live in the heart of Macbeth country. A couple of miles down the road is Macduff’s Cross. Birnam Wood and Dunsinane are not much further and Glamis Castle lies just across the River Tay.

As a schoolboy I found Shakespeare incredibly boring and it wasn’t until I went to drama school that I discovered the ‘Scottish play’. For those not aware of there is a legend that speaking the name ‘Macbeth’ inside a theatre will bring upon a curse and cause disaster. Macbeth therefore is only referred to as the ‘Scottish play’. I am not sure if the curse applies to blog posts.

The porter in Macbeth is, in my humble opinion, the greatest of all Shakespeare’s characters. He provides not only comic relief during very dark times, but also a sense of reality and words of wisdom. When I (successfully I’ll add) auditioned to study Performance Arts at university I performed the Porter’s Scene replete with a can of beer in hand, a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, and a pair of underpants on my head. It was an indication of a pending long career in IT.

As someone who reviews a considerable amount of ERP business cases and statements of work Macbeth’s soliloquy, delivered (spoiler alert) after the death of Lady Macbeth remains poignant:

 ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’

……each day is just like the last, just creeping along. When confronted with an ERP proposal or business case a CFO or CEO must feel the same. The benefits are the same things IT has been promising for the past two decades – single source of the truth, better use of data, faster time to close month end, lower cost to generate an invoice etc. etc.

‘And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.’

So many ERP strategies are built upon ones from 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. Many ERP initiatives continue to be delivered on time, on budget, fully functional but disappointing. We have a research note that explains why (On Time, On Budget, Fully Functional and Disappointing: Why Expectations Matter for ERP Success G00368337)

‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more’

Anyone who has ever presented (unsuccessfully) an ERP proposal to the senior management team or board of directors can empathize with this one. Senior leaders want to discuss business outcomes and business opportunities, but many ERP programs are still pitched as technology modernization initiatives that are primarily aimed at simplifying the life of the IT department. (You Are Not ‘Doing ERP’: How CIOs Can Successfully Present Their ERP Strategy to the Board G0034825)

‘It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

It is reasonable to argue that it is a wee bit of a stretch to equate ERP with Macbeth’s overwhelming nihilism. In addition few that lead ERP initiatives can be called idiots (though I have been called much worse – I once had a colleague state to our CEO in a very Shakespearean way ‘it is better to set fire to your wallet than to give money to IT’). However, those that do base their ERP proposals on burning platforms and worst-case scenarios are in effect telling tales full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. CFOs and CEOs aren’t swayed by hyperbole, drama and shock and awe. It makes little sense therefore to build an ERP narrative around a doom and gloom scenario.

ERP leaders, like the great bard, must tell great stories. They must reframe their conversations, moving away from discussions of vendors, technologies, efficiency and cost optimization to strategic storytelling, wearing the hat of the business leader responsible for the information and technology investment required to advance the enterprise agenda. Those outdated ERP approaches are fortunately fading, and I will hopefully see more business outcome focused strategies going forward……tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow.

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Category: applications  erp  

Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio

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