Innovative innovation myths

Here’s an old column I’ve meant to comment on for a while.  Dan Woods’s Jargon Spy is almost always a good read, and his take on The Myth of Crowdsourcing punctures some of the more cherished notions of social media and its power to create.   He goes right for the granddaddy of them all:

Wikipedia seems like a good example of a crowd of people who have created a great resource. But at a conference last year I asked Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales about how articles were created. He said that the vast majority are the product of a motivated individual. After articles are created, they are curated–corrected, improved and extended–by many different people. Some articles are indeed group creations that evolved out of a sentence or two. But if you took away all of the articles that were individual creations, Wikipedia would have very little left.  

Human innovation is the history of porting “applications” from one language, media, platform, or form factor to another.  In tech, we’ve moved app after app from pen and paper, to microcomputers, to PCs, and now to mobile.   Crowdsourcing “innovates” in much the same way, leveraging an existing paradigm but not really creating one. 

After all, Wikipedia is just another manifestation of an encyclopedia.  And who do we credit for that, the classic editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which were inspired by Diderot’s Encyclopédie, which built on Chamber’s Cyclopedia, and so on, and so on..?

Waterfall, Agile, now “Sim”?

Dan Woods in Forbes (here) highlights one of the emerging trends in development: user-interface simulation.  This takes agile development a step further, because…

[b]y creating a simulation of the user experience, instead of a full-working version, a team can avoid a large amount of work but still get a full test that can confirm requirements. Simulation accelerates the agile cycle by lowering the cost of each iteration and improving the quality of the feedback. At the end of several simulation iterations, designers have a rock-solid sense of what is needed.

Simulation also provides a better way to test the quality of business processes because it improves on the typical flow diagrams that only sophisticated users can understand.

iRise is the vendor that Woods mentions and that I’ve heard of (here).  They have a SAP-oriented solution (here), but I can’t vouch for it yet.

Also, because this piece is in Forbes, I’ll bet that smart c-level folks will soon be asking their PMOs about whether they are incorporating this approach into their methodologies.  Time to crack the “sim” books!

The SAP/Oracle Choice re: Integration

With the release of SAP Business Suite 7, the debate about the SAP and Oracle integration strategies has heated up.  Loraine Lawson at IT Business Edge (here) uses two posts by Ray Wang (here) and Dan Woods (here), to contrast the two approaches.

Of course, I agree with Lawson and Woods that the SAP approach is better :-).  I also agree that the Forbes audience — C- or high-level business folks — will eat up the SAP message.  However, IMO, it isn’t quite so simple.  Per a paragraph from Woods’s Forbes piece.

Companies implementing new applications or consolidating many companies must ask which foundation is best: a productized and unified platform for business automation or a collection of products that needs to be integrated. Best-of-breed is another way of saying that the user, not the vendor, is responsible for integration [emphasis mine]. 

My experience is that some firms and industries like to have that responsibility and chafe at having processes “pre-integrated.”  Again, I don’t think that is a great default position — one ends up automating non-differentiating processes nearly from scratch — but many pharma and financial firms in particular have tried to “grow their own.”  It is a legitimate strategy if you are truly creating competitive advantage via custom development and integration.

What SAP has done with the Business Suite and its business process platform strategy is to accommodate that desire to be different.  Enterprise SOA allows such customers to get the benefits of process integration without forgoing the capability to differentiate (by assembling or building enterprise services on top of the platform).

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