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“Mass-Market” versus “Niche” Enterprise SOA

In order to achieve a mass-market for Enterprise SOA, there is no question that SAP must convince a LOT of enterprises to rethink their basic business processes.  And in order to get a LOT of enterprises to do this, SAP must keep the game fairly simple.  Why must SAP keep the game fairly simple?  Well, simply because the law of averages (and the underlying “bell curve” or “Gaussian distribution”) says that on the whole,  average people are going to be the ones who are in charge of rethinking their enterprises’ business processes.  And therefore, if a company wants to energize a lot of “average” people, it has to give them a vision which is within their capacity to realize. (This, BTW, was Ellison’s true genius – he realized that there were aspects of the relational model which even the most technically illiterate CIO/CEO/CFO could grasp, and could therefore be used as part of a sophisticated marketing ploy based on the idea of making such CIO’s/CEO’s/CFO’s feel that they were actually capable of understanding something important about IT, even though this “something” was in fact quite trivial.)  But the fact that we all want SAP to succeed in mass-marketing Enterprise SOA does not mean that we must refuse to see other worthwhile “niche” applications for Enterprise SOA that may involve business processes which are not “simple” to rethink and restructure.  What do I mean by a “niche” Enterprise SOA application?  Well, suppose you have a processing problem in your business that’s an “institutional problem”.  By an “institutional problem”, I mean one that can’t be solved by rethinking existing business processes because these existing business processes are so deeply embedded in a particular socio-political-economic matrix that they will never be “rethought” in our lifetimes.  (These are usually the kinds of processes that are so outrageously bad that one can only shake one’s head in amazement and cynically ask, with Cassius and Cicero: “Cui bono?”)  When one finds such “institutional” problems that are caused by business processes which one cannot “rethink” due to socio-political-economic factors, does this mean that one should conclude that Enterprise SOA cannot be used to ameliorate such problems?  Not at all.    One merely has to see how the principles of Enterprise SOA can be applied “after the fact” instead of “before the fact”, in order to identify problems after they have occurred and make sure that appropriate steps are taken to rectify these problems.  This view of Enterprise SOA proceeds from the assumption that life is messy and human beings are messy and that sometimes, the best Enterprise SOA can do is to help clean up the messes, not prevent them from happening in the first place.  In this thread here: Before BI there was AI: will Enterprise SOA bring it back? I mentioned two problems in military logistics that are “institutional” problems in the sense that they occur due to bad business processes that will never be rethought in our lifetimes.  I’m sure that there are many similar problems in many other vertical sectors, and that “niche” Enterprise SOA can be used to ameliorate such problems, even when the underlying business processes cannot be re-invented from the ground up. 
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  • It seems you find your metaphors and quotes first, throw in your RDBMS fixation a good deal, and then try to get a context (whatever suits your fancy – ESOA, WDA, WDJ, whatever) and post something, anything.

    What comes across almost all your posts is not any knowledge or info(which if they come are the unintended byproduct) , but your personality trait – one that conveys the strong urge to show your wares – ‘look at me, I am the one more knowledgeable than all these tech leaders and visionaries!’.

    Sadly after following through so many of your gems only thing I can say is, your blogs are mostly like the technical error messages – ‘correct but entirely useless’.

    Just one Q – Law of averages is known as Gaussian distribution, really??

    • If this post didn’t get at least one response such as yours, I would have to assume that I had not made my point effectively. But since you chose to attack the messenger rather than the message, I have to assume that you understood my point quite well.

      So far as the “Law of Averages”, you’re right – I was speaking loosely.

      But not so loosely as to be entirely incorrect.

      What I mean to bring to mind by invoking the “law of averages” is this statement from the wiki entry on the law of averages:

      “The formal mathematical result that supports the law of averages is called the law of large numbers. It states that a large sample of a particular probabilistic event will tend to reflect the underlying probabilities.”

      Of course, you are free to disagree that this statement has anything to do with bell curves or Gaussian distributions, but I think you would be wrong to do so.

      The “underlying probability” IS that the people in charge of thinking about business processes, i.e., the people who will decide whether to move out on Enterprise SOA or not, are average.  And that’s the sense in which I used the term.

      Now you may argue that this is NOT the underlying probability – that the folks in charge of thinking about business processes are not “average” – that they tend to cluster on the “above-average” side of the continuum.  But if that were the case, why would they need “tech leaders” and “visionaries” to tell them how to conceptualize their problems?

      One way of restating my point here is to say that there is a very fine line between mass-marketing and condescension, and that it can prove dangerous to cross this line in any marketing effort, no matter how well meant.

      • Considering how many CIO’s and IO’s I’ve had the pleasure of working with and conversing with I would strongly disagree with your defining them as “average” to do so seems to undermine those individuals.

        I would not rate any of the people, save maybe one in particular I meet last year, as anything but average. Your generalization is quite an insult to a lot of those people and is based on your experiences alone – granted you may have been dealing with lots of different people but you can’t make a simple generalization like that – it just doesn’t work!

        • Please see the bold-faced items in paragraph 4 of the original post, which I have added as a result of your comment.

          Thanks for pointing out that my rhetoric tended toward excess and wasn’t entirely fair.

          Best regards

      • David,

        ‘Law of averages’ phrase would have more than sufficed and been apt enough, but not for you, you need to add redundant, if not incorrect, phrases to embellish your prose. To me, this is verbosity and nothing else.

        It was a comment on the messanger, you are right, it was meant to be so. In djh-speak I would say “What you are speaks so loud I can’t hear what you say.”

        It could be that you think you are smarter (might very well be right) and others are dumb (you are wrong) and so you are earnestly trying to help by going on and on explaining your point on any and everything.

        There is a not so fine line between sharing the knowledge or ideas, and condescension, and you seem permanently perched on the other side, with little to back up that position.

        • It’s always a good idea to try and take one of your opponent’s phrases or sentences and try to turn it against him or her by a slight rewording.

          But one has to be careful when taking this tack.

          It might just be that your graceful and skilled attempt to turn my own statement against me (the one about mass-marketing and condescension) will actually lead more people to think about what I might have meant by this statement (more than might otherwise have thought about this statement at all!)