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Some of the discussions we had in TechEd Munich centered around our Geek and Suit Collaboration BPX wiki project.  It’s really great to see a community vision “come to life”.  Somewhere back around July 1st , Geek and Suit Collaboration – Chapter Two – RoundTable Podcastthe main characters in the scenarios evolving on the wiki, Dick Hirsch and Owen Pettiford, together with Industry Community Manager, Frauke Hoffmann.  I promised that we would have a live interaction at TechEd and we certainly did!

TechEd Munich indeed showcased Dick and Owen delivering the next installment of the Geek and Suit Collaboration – Chapter Five – The TechEd Munich Edition.  It also represented a “first ever” live meeting of two community guys who had been collaborating for a half a year and it appears that exactly what these guys set out to do, they are accomplishing, namely creating a lively story that engages other folks in the community and illustrates the work of a Business Process Expert.  It even caught some analyst and executive eyes at TechEd…but more of that to come later…..

 Owen and Dick

Here’s the transcript of the interview back in July, which pretty well represents what these guys are accomplishing.

Marilyn Pratt:  This is Marilyn Pratt, community evangelist for the Business Process Expert community. We’re here for our first geeks and suits community project. I have online with me Frauke Hoffman, who is the community manager of the industries that have now joined our BPX community and I have with me as well Dick Hirsch who is one of the pioneers of this idea of using a wiki as a community project interaction medium as well as Owen Pettiford who is his conversation partner in crime on the wiki.  I wanted to allow Dick to tell you a little bit about this community project that we started in the wiki on the community network. This is the BPX story. Afterwards I’ll have Frauke as well as Owen jump in and describe a little bit of their activities and the idea of having a virtual roundtable or virtual conversation.

Dick Hirsch:  The one thing that I’ve always been curious to know about is really to try to figure out how people interact in projects, and the problem has always been how do you capture this? And this is one of the initial ideas that we had with the community project. The deal was to give people the ability to really work together in some sort of a collaboration environment. In our case it’s the wiki, and to really have goals, to have some sort of a quasi-project where they work together. What we said was that we will have the desire to educate people and to entertain people, and so we figured out we want to give people the BPX community members more or less the ability to really share their stories, share their experiences in terms of how they deal with one another and how they deal with technology. And so we decided that what we’re going to do is we are going to start what are called pilots and each pilot has a certain structure. The idea was that people would work together and for example two people, maybe someone who is a techno person and someone who has more domain expertise would come together and discuss how they would examine a problem. And what we decided to use was something called a script, and a script is more or less a conversation, it can be an imaginary conversation between one or more roles. We didn’t want to say this is exactly what I experience in my day-to-day life. We wanted to say this is a BPX sort of generic BPX and this is a generic developer. How do they relate to one another. And Owen and I have done a few scripts now where we’ve taken different roles. He might be the BPX. I might be sort of his junior BPX and he tries to explain (to) me for example what is BPX. In other cases, we perhaps want to look at something more technical maybe related to SDN for example, ESA bundles. What is that? How do you work with this? So we wanted to really provide people to examine all various aspects of the life of a BPX in relation to maybe business individuals as well as technical individuals. And right now we have gotten the initial pilot in right now we’re looking at a second pilot which is going to be based on an actual application that’s in Excel where we’re going to really start to move and examine this application and we’re going to look at how we can really move this application which is an Excel based application into the world of enterprise so this means that we’re going to be moving it to a comparative application format, and we’re just examining that and looking at how people whoa re involved in such projects work together. These are the real stories that we want to bring out into the public, we want to show people other people in the community, we want to show them, not just this is how it’s done, but this is how we experience such processes. This is our experience. How people involved in such processes interact with one another.

Marilyn Pratt:  Dick, do you want to share with us, how do you make these conversations lifelike. How do you make them sound real?

Dick Hirsch:  Well, I think everyone of us has interesting conversations on a daily basis, and I think it’s important that people sort of collect parts of conversations that they find especially relevant and might be helpful for other people looking at this area, so partially it could be conversations, or parts of conversations that really have occurred, and other parts as Owen and I have experienced, might sort of be humorous conversations, humor scripts that really show the absurdity of some relationships that we all have experienced.

Marilyn Pratt:  Can you give us some examples of some of the geeks and suits conversation or conversation that you guys had?

Dick Hirsch:  Well, I mean typically we look at for example some scripts that Owen, for example has been working on, where they’re talking about people having conversation in a squash court. They’re playing a game, they’re competing and they’re still talking about problems that they’re dealing with in a business environment, but they’re still, they’re, they know one another they have a relationship and you try and capture these relationships because we all have, we all interact with other individuals not only on a business level, but also on a personal level. And these are the things that are intriguing because these are the things that are really, how you learn about how people BPX’s relate to other individuals in the corporate environment.

Marilyn Pratt:  What other ideas do you have around illustrating these stories?

Dick Hirsch:  Right, well, I mean first of all I mean if you look at the scripts that we have on the wiki OK, they all they’re sort of like a script, they’re sort of like if you go to a theater and you would read a play, the sort of the same sort of format and we started using ideas for example of icons, icons to a percent, a BPX to represent a suit or a geek, or other ideas for example, are if you have a script that is tech based, that you tape it and turn it into a podcast for example, so that people who might not be able to look at the wiki will be able to download the podcast and still understand what the scripts are trying to achieve.

Marilyn Pratt:  So kind of like what we’re doing now, if we had a conversation that we’re between these players that represented these roles, it would be some kind of conversation that people could listen to a kind of real life conversation.

Dick Hirsch:  Exactly, because I heard some other podcasts from S.A.P. doing something similar where one woman took the role of a senior consultant and the other individual took the role from a junior consultant and I found that interesting because they’re not just two talking heads, but they’re really people who have a relationship and you learn a lot more about how they inter-relate with one another in such a context rather than just straight podcast where the people really don’t describe how they relate to one another.

Marilyn Pratt:  I’d like to have you and Owen describe a little bit about who you are in real life and why you would even choose to participate in such an illustrated story online? Owen Pettiford:  I work in the UK for a company that specializes in helping people understand how they can use enterprise S.O.A. and the reason for me participating in this is really a passion I have to close this gap between geeks and suits and working with Dick to try and give life to some of these I guess what could sometimes be a dry methodology by using these scripts that people can come and see these scripts, hopefully reflect that back into their real world so for instance, though Dick and I have never met each other but going through these scripts and with the characters of Ernie and Larry I already feel like I’ve got to know him in terms of understanding what some of his issues would have been in the past and what some of mine were as well, so it’s been good, and then we also have been planning with the use of instant messaging to try and bring those scripts to life as well, so trying to use as many different medias as we can.

Marilyn Pratt:  Oh, cool, you mean you instant message one another and then you cut and paste the chat?

Owen Pettiford:  Yeah, yeah, so that’s how we’ve been working out some of the lighter scripts that aren’t yet on the SDN but they’ll be coming soon, to try and keep it as conversational as possible.

Marilyn Pratt:  Great! And I heard a rumor that you’re actually going to meet face to face at TechEd. Is that true?

Dick Hirsch:  Hopefully.

Owen Pettiford:  Yeah, that is true. The Larry and Ernie show will come to TechEd.

Marilyn Pratt:  Fabulous, so we’ll hope to host you in the community clubhouse, that will be fun. Dick, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started really propelling this whole idea forward in the wiki?

Dick Hirsch:  Of course, well, I’m a consultant as Siemens and we’ve all seen this, it’s the inability to really show people, to really give them the ability to grasp this technology that was always a problem and I wanted to truly show people, say this is how this stuff looks like in real life, let them really grab on to it, because as Owen was saying this is a very dry // but if you look at all of our lives, we relate to this technology in a corporate environment that’s full of people, full of activities, full of stress and excitement and this is the sort of passion that you want to try and bring over to people , and that’s one of the reasons why I found the wiki so entrancing, that you could really work with other people and sort of create or try and recreate this passion for other individuals. Try and understand why this technology is so intriguing.

Marilyn Pratt:  Thanks. And how do you see this idea of the roundtable fitting into all of this Frauke.

Frauke Hoffman:  The roundtable idea was created within industry discussions, so I’m speaking here for all the industry communities that found a home on BPX. And during our discussions with partners and customers, we found out that they’re always very sensitive when it comes to sharing information that they see by themselves as competitive. And since we know from a community point of view that we need to build up trust and help them to better understand to which level they can go down without giving out confidential information, we created the idea of roundtable, so that a group of people that know each other can come together virtually to start discussing in the wiki and on the forum write blogs, use documents that are stored in our BPX library and that they have some moderation and facilitation from SAP. So, we’re seeing ourselves from the SAP side as the waiters, helping our members on BPX to start talking with each other, taking them by the hand and really guiding them into a collaborative and open discussion environment, so we are currently in the process to launch different roundtables. Some of them are closed, like for example, three roundtables that we are preparing for High Tech, we also have discussions coming up around oil and gas or mining and metal. And step by step we will grow the numbers of roundtables. One major aspect is that they exist only for a limited time span so that people can also plan the roundtable discussions into their schedules. So, for example, if a customer member likes to use outcomes out of roundtables for a project that is going on in his or her own organization, then this can be scheduled together with a facilitator on the S.A.P. side and we will have of course, the people to find other peers who might have the same interest to really bring together experts that like to drive a certain discussion.

Marilyn Pratt:  Well, that sounds very structured. How does that concept fit in to this idea of having the community project then?

Dick Hirsch:  Well, I think they complement one another, because what’s so intriguing about the roundtable is that there really is a structure that must be followed, and that was some of the things that people were commenting about our idea was that there wasn’t a structure. We had a limited one but I think the roundtable has a much stricter structure which is actually quite useful, and my idea is sort of merge the two of them, because I like the idea of scripts which provides people with flexibility and a certain ability to collaborate and the roundtable has the structure which I think is useful, just because it tells people sort of like what the tasks are that have to be done to really accomplish the goals of a particular pilot.

Marilyn Pratt:  Can you give us a little bit of a hint of what roundtable community project you’re working toward now, hopefully one that we can expose to everybody at Tech Ed?

Frauke Hoffman:  Unfortunately I am not the owner of the roundtable, but I think that we can definitely expose the roundtable that is in preparation for the mining and metal industry, so this is, our pilot roundtable because we are really testing this kind of interaction the first time and I think Tech Ed is a huge opportunity for us to introduce the concept, maybe getting some of the participants of the roundtable to Tech Ed to really discuss where our major experiences, findings, how did everything work? Is there something that we can roll out on a huge scale to the whole community and maybe starting roundtable discussions really onsite where people who sit at a real table and start discussing the whole methodology and structure, because it’s an offering that we’re providing from the industry side to the industry to really help them to accomplish their own objectives and targets on BPX, because each member that joins the community has their own agenda, so everybody who comes as a business process expert to the community has projects to cover and with the roundtables, we really support the members to get their daily work done, and by coming together on site, or running a roundtable like for the mill and mining industry, we really like to join forces and add real business value by other communities to the members.

Marilyn Pratt:  Thank you very much all for joining us for this conversation about the geek and suit project in the BPX Community Project.

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