Imagine that you finally decided to go out on your own and start your own business. Obviously, you need a PC. You don’t want to mess up so you walk into the biggest brand-name PC store to get some information. A salesrep with the fakest smile you can imagine greets you. ‘I need a PC for my business,’ you start. You don’t get to say more, ‘We believe in best-of-breed technology,’ the rep throws out his hook. ‘The best is just good enough for you. We don’t believe that one thing can do it all. We have different PC types that are each perfect for one thing, such as ERP-PC, ECM-PC, CRM-PC, BPM-PC and the latest one is the E20-PC.’ You clearly want the best of everything, so you follow the salesperson to the TLA department.
He points at a row of PCs. They all have shiny covers, complex dials and displays on them, with warning bells, whistles, colorful bows and arches. Really high-tech and futuristic. Very impressive. ‘We don’t need to discuss the ERP-PC. You just need something to do your accounting. Done.’ He is not even trying to sell this one to you. You already bought it.
He caringly strokes the top of a machine that seems to be connected to a pretty large storage rack. ‘The ECM-PC is out-of-the-box built for all your content needs. Write any letter you need, scan all paper that you have and keep and organize it. There is nothing you need to do, just switch it on and go.’ It seems so obvious that you don’t want to look stupid by questioning it. You simply nod.
He then steps to another PC with a CRM logo. ‘This one allows you to keep all the information about your customers. You can group them, classify them and send out personalized marketing.’ You are quite amazed. This is where your business will happen. Great! All there. You came to the right place.
The rep pulls you a desk further and continues with shiny eyes. ‘This is our most amazing model yet. The BPM-PC. It has all the knowledge already built in. There is nothing you need to know about running a business. Everything you need has been put into flowcharts and you just follow them. You want a coffee? Easy. Press this ‘Make Coffee’ button and see? It tells you everything. Step one: Put water in the caraffe. Step Two: Put coffee in the filter. Step three: Turn on coffemaker. Step four: Put milk into coffee.’ He is clearly all excited about this amazing technology. ‘You get the idea, right.’ He is clearly waiting for you to say something and admire his gizmos. But all that comes to your mind is: ‘I drink my coffee black.’ You see the salesperson shrink before your very eyes. ‘OK. Well, then this one is not for you.’
He sighs deeply and recovers his trained smile. ‘Well, step over here, please, because this one is a must! The E20 machine is perfect for social communications. It is the new thing. You can do chat, social networking, create and watch videos, the works. You’ll know immediately when someone says something bad about your customer service. Perfect.’ He stands there in front of his treasures, arms spread wide, inviting you to make your choice. ‘So which one do you want?’
While you wonder why the E20-PC doesn’t help you to prevent unhappy customers, your eyes begin to wander from left to right, looking at all the shiny, glitzy machines, mulling over which one to take. As you go in your mind through what you will need to get your business humming along and doing that at a cost that will leave you a few bucks in your own pocket, you realize what you need.
‘You know,’ you say to the rep, ‘I don’t think I can just do it with one. I really need all of them.’ The salesrep’s eyes go wide with joy. ‘Really? Fantastic. When can we ship them?’ He pulls out his order pad and starts to write. But you say: ‘Not so fast, because will it not be really hard for me to wander between all the different PC monitors and somehow reference the customer data, with the invoice, and the letters and everything together?’ You shrug. ‘I just don’t see how that will really make my life so much more efficient or effective?’ Before he can answer you say: ‘And why are you using a paper order pad and not a PC?’ The rep ignores your question and continues to scribble.
And then your common sense says, ‘Hey, I just had an idea! Isn’t there a way that you can link all these PC’s together so that when I need something I can access it all from one of them?’ The rep is suddenly all in flames. ‘Wow, we really love customers like you who are so forward thinking.’ He puts his hand on your shoulder as he leads you to a curtain and pulls on a cord. The spotlights come on, a fanfare plays and as the curtain slides away a big rack of boxes with blinking lights and whirring disks and miles of cable out of the back leading up to those PC’s. There are huge neon-blue letters on the front of the rack and they shine so bright you have to protect your eyes. They read ‘The SOA Magic!’
The rep is shivering with excitement. ‘You will understand that ‘Magic’ has a price and that you need to give us two years with 20 consultants to wire the PCs together, but then you can go to all the SOA conferences and be the HERO who finally did it! People will admire you and you will certainly be selected CIO of the year!’ His eyes fill with tears as he imagines the emotional moment of you walking up to the stage to take possession of your SOA trophy.
Somehow the SOA Trophy doesn’t seem to improve your sales prospects. And then you notice he hasn’t told you yet what it will cost. You dare to ask the question. The rep’s forehead furrows. ‘Don’t say you are going now all Total-Cost-of-Ownership on me, when it is clear that this will put your business years ahead of others?’ Right, you thinks, in terms of expense, but two years? You wanted to be selling in a few weeks. Your eyes wander the room trying to gather your thoughts and suddenly you notice there is another PC standing there in the corner, kind of hidden. You point at it: ‘So what does this one do?’ It is a simple machine without the technology stack. The rep sort of moves in between you and the PC. ‘You know we had this around for some time, but they say this one allows you to do it all ECM, CRM, BPM and even the E20 stuff linked right to the ERP functionality. But we don’t recommend it.’ You push him aside and click on the keyboard and as you browse through the menus it seems as if with a little time you could do most of the things you needed yourself. Yes, you would need to spend a little configuration time to set it up, but then it would do all the things you were looking for: customer services, accounts management deal with incoming letters, send out all the business content, set up a few rules to make sure you stick to the game, define what the goals are, and create the views where all that stuff would be in one place. The rep gets nervous. ‘I mean, just think: How could this one box do all the stuff that these others do and while it does SOA, it only uses it for outside connections. I mean how UNCOOL is that?’
You ask: ‘So how much is this one?’ The rep cringes, ‘well, about the same as the other PCs.’ Too bad, you sigh, it looked too good. But you ask, just to be sure, ‘like one or all of them?’ You see him swallowing hard, ‘ONE … but then you won’t need the SOA Magic and you can’t go to the CIO awards!’ To finally break through the BS you ask, ‘and how many years will this one take for you to put in?’ The salesrep is stricken with disappointment. ‘Maybe three months with a couple of their guys, who’ll do some configuration and training and the rest you can do yourself. But it could be more if you want to define a Business Architecture as well. And look, your people would need to know how to cook coffee!’ His hand sort of swipes the idea away. ‘We don’t really focus on it as there is not enough service revenue in it for us.’
Now you are getting to the bottom of it. ‘So how long has this been around and what do they call it?’ you ask. ‘It has been around for ten years, but only recently they also gave it a nice TLA. They call it the ACM-PC.’ And he gives it a last try, ‘but look, everyone else has been buying the other stuff for years, so they can’t be wrong, right?’ But then he gives you a worried look, ‘Or could they?’