Introducing the Enterprise Personality Profile

Archived Published: 16 March 2004 ID: G00120106

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Does your enterprise's personality clash with IT success? Gartner's Enterprise Personality Profile will help clarify how enterprise personality traits and behaviors shape choices, projects, investments and success.

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How many times have you, as CIO or IT leader, championed the business benefits of a technology initiative, only to have the initiative get inadequate funding, be poorly accepted or fail to deliver the benefits you expected? The reality is that the enterprise may be culturally, technologically and politically unsuited to the initiative and to its accompanying changes. To put it simply: Although the proposed IT initiative may be sound, it may clash with the "personality" of the enterprise. The enterprise's personality — as exhibited through its governance, funding process, readiness for change, capacity for absorbing new technology and so on — may be a mismatch with the nature of the initiative.

In this IT Management Spotlight, Gartner introduces the Enterprise Personality Profile (EPP), a presumptive model that reflects and describes enterprise personality dimensions and cultural descriptors. For some, the idea of ascribing personality to an enterprise is anthropomorphism gone bad. For others, including Gartner, an enterprise is an aggregation of people, characteristics, behaviors, temperaments, habits, culture and "quirks." To understand why an initiative, program or acquisition exceeds, meets or misses expectations, CIOs and IT leaders must understand their enterprise's personality and the consequent problems, mismatches and levers for resolution. The EPP, an evolutionary outgrowth of Gartner's well-established ABC technology adoption curve, will be a powerful tool for clarifying where an enterprise is, where it wants to be and which personality dimensions or cultural descriptors will help or hinder its objectives.

Assumptions and Hypotheses in Gartner's EPP

Several forces sparked our thinking around enterprise personality. For one thing, enterprises are increasingly buying services, not technology, so our traditional Type ABC technology-adoption curve no longer fits many buying decisions. For another thing, business value of any investment depends on the surrounding culture. Context is everything. Third, IT buying decisions, investments and usage are being determined by parties outside the IS organization. The EPP generates a common language for analyzing investments, acquisitions and results across different buying audiences and influencers. Finally, given the pace of business and technology change, being in the mainstream middle is not enough to sustain competitive advantage. Enterprises can no longer straddle the fence; they must choose to be ahead of the curve or behind the curve (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Technology Adoption Curve vs. EPP
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner Research (March 2004)

The EPP represents what Gartner calls a "stalking horse" — assumptions and assertions that crystallize our thinking around the dynamics of a recognized pattern. The intention of a stalking horse is to stimulate discussion, to solicit comments and feedback, to test the validity of the assumptions and to recalibrate or adjust the thinking.

Gartner's EPP is founded on several key assumptions and hypotheses.


  • Enterprise personality maps broadly to aggressive, mainstream and conservative traits.

  • Any acquisition, decision or investment is a reflection or a symptom of the enterprise personality that makes it.

  • No enterprise is exclusively aggressive, mainstream or conservative. Nearly all enterprises are a mix of behaviors.

Certain dimensions of the enterprise personality may enhance or hinder other dimensions.


  • Enterprises generally lean toward being aggressive or conservative (that is, Type A or Type C).

  • The mainstream middle, described as "B-ness," is a transitory stage and has increasingly fewer entrants than either Type A or Type C (see Figure 1).

  • Dimensions of enterprise personality are positively or negatively correlated with other dimensions.

Inside the EPP

At the core of EPP are two intersecting paths: one, dimensions of enterprise personality, and two, enterprise cultural descriptors that apply to those dimensions. Personality dimensions include governance, human capital management, funding, change and technology. Cultural descriptors include enterprise use of information, tolerance for risk and adaptability. If an enterprise says that it is at the forefront of IT governance and considers itself aggressive in the governance dimension, it can test that claim by learning whether business and IT leaders can easily and clearly articulate the governance framework. If the answer is yes, then the enterprise's "use of information" supports its aggressive governance label. If not, governance remains a poorly communicated mystery. Mismatches will reinforce failure; matches will reinforce success.

Let's use an example: A food-manufacturing company launches an enterprisewide program for adopting radio frequency identification (RFID) technology standards. Using the EPP, the RFID program manager assesses her primary challenges.

One, RFID technology leans toward aggressive technology adoption (considered Type A in the technology dimension), but the company's governance and funding lean toward fractured and conservative behaviors (considered Type C in those dimensions).

Two, the program manager's ultimate objective is to roll out an RFID standard across the enterprise, yet the company operates in a highly decentralized manner, a factor that introduces mismatches between the Type A technology dimension and the governance and change management dimensions.

Through the EPP, the RFID program manager can do a "pre-diagnostic" exercise that illuminates behavioral incongruities in risk tolerance, adaptability, strategy and maturity across the problematic dimensions of governance, funding, change management and technology. She can then create action plans for building alliances and programs that will drive change and convert incongruity into congruity.

Delving Into the EPP

We invite you to explore the EPP and, in the true spirit of "stalking horse" research, to work with us to delve into the dimensions, descriptors and scoring. In addition to this overview, the EPP unfolds in four pieces of analysis.

The EPP will be a tool for understanding how enterprises make decisions, wield or exercise power, and reflect their culture. In particular, we expect CIOs and IT leaders to use the profiling tool to identify and understand gaps between management intention and enterprise inertia, and to calibrate the degree of difficulty they face in driving necessary change.


"Enterprise Personality Profile: Know Thyself First" — Explore the dominant themes and hypotheses presented in the EPP. By Phillip Redman, Joseph Feiman, Bill Kirwin and Diane Morello

"Enterprise Personality Profile: How Did We Get Here?" — Understand how we moved beyond the technology-bounded adoption curve to the new EPP. By Bill Kirwin, Joseph Feiman, Diane Morello and Phillip Redman

"Enterprise Personality Profile: Dimensions and Descriptors" — Learn how dimensions and descriptors interplay. By Joseph Feiman, Bill Kirwin, Diane Morello and Phillip Redman

"Enterprise Personality Profile: Applying the Lessons Learned" — Find out how and when to apply the lessons learned from the EPP. By Bill Kirwin, Joseph Feiman, Diane Morello and Phillip Redman

© 2004 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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