Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Factoring in Barriers to Entry

@toddbiske and @djbressler make some interesting points about the adoption of software tools and platforms (Factoring in Barriers to Entry). Todd's specific example is applying BPM and BPMN tools to support EA processes, but his remarks would apply in many other contexts.

Todd's basic argument is that adoption is more important than sophistication. Better to get people started with simple tools and platforms - for example Visio and Sharepoint - than do anything that requires the IT department to get its hands dirty. (In an earlier post, Todd identified the IT department as one of the Barriers to SOA Adoption.)

But I don't think of adoption as a simple binary event (from "unadopted" to "adopted") but as a curve (from shallow occasional use to sophisticated and seamless integration into working practice). And although that's not how Todd is using the word "adoption", I think his argument is consistent with a richer notion of adoption. For example, he acknowledges a concern that "low barrier to entry eventually become a boat anchor".

If a vendor boasts thousands of users, and then I discover this merely means installing the trial version of the software and playing with it once, then I'm not very impressed. If a vendor has a dozen customers at the top of the curve, that's much more impressive than a thousand at the bottom of the curve.

From this point of view, lowering the barriers to entry is only half the story. What I'm interested in is the shape of the whole adoption curve, which enables people to find an appropriate level of adoption and not get stuck on the nursery slopes. That's where I think software like Visio and Sharepoint falls down - they may be easy to get started, but they can get hairy if you want to do anything more interesting.

No comments: