I’m currently reading “ Influencers”, in which the authors make a great point that with innovation, the messenger is as important as the message. There’s a story of a researcher who attempts to get farmers to use a more disease resistant strain of corn, but the farmers don’t view this person as experienced and don’t want to risk their crop. So, the researcher sets out to find that one person who will try the new strain of corn, thereby, setting an example for all the other farmers. So, the researcher finds this farmer that dresses in Bermuda shorts and drives a Cadillac, who is open to innovative farming techniques and who successfully uses the new strain of corn to grow a bumper crop.
At this point, most of us “engineer” types are thinking, “great, now all the other farmers have an example of it working and will feel more comfortable using the new corn.” I know I will raise my hand with regard to being in this camp, but I got schooled in a big way. I know that when I was out there acting in a business development / sales role for software companies, this was a critical factor for success. Moreover, in certain industries, such as finance, this approach works great.
However, we in IT often focus so heavily on the successful early adopters, that we forget about the majority of middle-roaders and laggards. Why are they middle-roaders and laggards? Well, as it turns out, when it comes to innovation, adoption is sometimes more limited by who adopts first than the fact that it was adopted and worked successfully. Middle-roaders and laggards weigh certain, maybe less visionary and less well-advised, opinions more heavily than the data they can view with their own eyes.
I’ve noticed this phenomenon, but didn’t have a full understanding of the processes that were occurring. Especially with regard to SOA, I remember in the early days being concerned that ITs early adoption of the concept might chase away the business before they had an opportunity to digest the value to them. Sure enough, I believe this is exactly what has been occurring. A concept that was supposed to bring IT/Business together has once again ended up having too heavy focus on IT and the business is now rejecting.
This brings us back to our Bermuda-shorts-wearing-Cadillac-driving farmer. As it turns out the other farmers did not respect this farmer because he was different and because he didn’t think and do things the same way they would. Hence, they rejected the cold, hard data that his crop surpassed them and, as some might say, “bit their nose to spite their face.”
When it comes to SOA, isn’t the Business a bit like the other farmers? If IT wants to succeed at leveraging the power of innovation, whether its Cloud Computing, SOA, Enterprise Architecture, etc. they’re going to have to stop “geeking out” and taking dominance over these creations and allow the influencer groups that the Business listens to take the lead and promote the value of these new innovations.