I published most of this post over on my blog, vendorprisey, but I figured it would be okay to publish it here too, after a brief chat with SDNer Craig… I think it points to a problem that impacts not only enterprise software marketing, but also something for those of you that try and convince business types to invest in SOA projects.
The post is one of several where I rant on about simplicity.
Joe has a very interesting post over on ZDNET. If you are in Enterprise Software marketing, you should read it if it is the only thing you read this week.
Trip’s message is very simple and straightforward: Vendors, please start making some sense to the rest of the world when it comes to SOA. Trip said that the SOA concept holds some promise, but vendors aren’t articulating the message too well. “SOA is definitely a trend, but it seems like the messaging, the product, and everything else need to be simplified, so that people can know how one initiative can correlate and coexist with other initiatives they have going,” pointed out.
Trip bashes SAP:
“If you think about companies like SAP who have very long implementation cycles, they have a lot of moving parts,” he explained. “It’s a complex product, and the problem that SAP has and to some extent, most of the SOA vendors have is that theyre trying to solve complexity with complexity.“
When it comes to mass adoption — or the second phase of product adoption that needs to occur to show growth — then you really have to ease the product, ease the message. You have to tell what you do in one bullet point.
This worries me, not just for perpetuation of the SAP is slow to implement myth, but because the the abject failure of enterprise software marketeers from all the major vendors to articulate SOA in a way that customers and the investment community can understand.
(I suppose the one positive from this is that Joe and co picked SAP as a SOA vendor. Normally the analyst types moan that we aren’t SOA enough.)
The only thing in the world harder than learning German is trying to explain SOA to an audience of HR executives without causing them undue pain and suffering.
Business people want to talk about leaner supply chains, better margins, and fast implementations.
Id go even further James and say that not only is it often superior to present an architecture without mentioning the supposed name of the architectural approach/style used, but often its best not to mention the concept of architecture at all.
The desired outcomes and value of the solution to the audience youre talking to should press the right buttons.
Unless of course the audience is pure software people or technical architects and then their desired outcomes and value can be the architectural approach/style itself. Hence the problem of course I like to call it supply-side thinking.
At the moment there is far too much recipe and not enough meal.
Every software developer I meet, not just here at SAP, but all over the place, tells me that SOA makes it simpler and faster to build flexible enterprise applications. This stuff then is real, it works.
If folks like Trip, who can probably do Black-Scholes calculations and build value at risk models while in the airport queue, don’t grasp what the marketeers are on about, then perhaps it is time for a big glass of Simple.
The way to talk about SOA is not to talk about it, and just showcase the solutions that it enables. Repeat after me. Short sentences. No jargon. Real examples. Simple is goodness.
What has this got to do with you?
You may be asking what has this got to do with BPX? – marketing SAP isn’t my responsiblity, or thinking I’m not in presales. But actually a lot of you are. When you put your business case and ROI model together and present it to management, you are in sales, you might not be actually selling software licences, but you are certainly selling your project.
What do you need to sell your projects internally? How do you explain SOA to your management? Does SAP’s positioning help or hinder you? What do you do to simplify the message? What SAP materials do you use?
Perhaps it is time for a competition?
Explain what SOA means to your business in the simpliest terms possible. Craig and Marilyn how about some SDN Swag for the winning entry? If I get more than two sensible yet simple comments, we will create a wikispace for the competition.