User adoption: Killer app for SOA and Enterprise 2.0

Although geeky eggheads may become enamored by cool technology, real users care about solving practical, day-to-day business problems. We call that adoption.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor on

Although geeky eggheads may become enamored by cool technology, real users care about solving practical, day-to-day business problems. We call that adoption.

Stated differently, satisfied users adopt; those who do not experience sufficient value walk away.

Adoption matters a great deal to both service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Enterprise 2.0 projects. Unlike traditional enterprise software implementations, success in these areas is determined by much more than project management metrics.

Organizations generally evaluate traditional enterprise software deployments based on time, cost, and achieving planned project goals. An enterprise implementation is usually deemed successful when it meets targets related to these three parameters.

In contrast, most practitioners consider user adoption to be a key measure of SOA and Enterprise 2.0 success. These initiatives only achieve success when users find them sufficiently compelling to spend the time and effort needed to engage.

SOA analyst, Dana Gardner, explains the difficulty in adoption, especially with new technologies. Dana describes challenges associated with measuring the "soft" drivers behind user adoption:

Any new information technology might be the best thing since sliced bread, but if people don’t understand the value or how to access it properly -- or if adoption is spotty, or held up by sub-groups, agendas, or politics -- then the value proposition is left in the dust.

A crucial element for avoiding and overcoming social and user dissonance with technology adoption is to know what you are up against, in detail. Yet, data and inferences on how people really feel about technology is often missing, incomplete, or inaccurate.

Similarities in the importance of adoption for SOA and Enterprise 2.0 reflect a common basis: users vote with their feet (or mouse, as the case may be).

Another respected SOA analyst, Joe McKendrick, reinforces these similarities:

Getting at the big picture is an issue with Enterprise 2.0, and it’s certainly has been a long-running issue with SOA as well. Where are the dependencies? How will one system impact another? As Sandy Rogers pointed out, “one of the fundamental needs in running any type of business project — an SOA project or an Enterprise 2.0 IT project — is the ability to share information and expose that visibility to all parties at levels.”

During a recent conversation, Software AG's Vice President and Chief Strategist, Miko Matsumura, made a startling observation, saying, "SOA adoption is social." Enterprise 2.0 expert, Dion Hinchcliffe, who was part of that discussion, adds:

The linkage between SOA and Enterprise 2.0 is not contrived. The adoption of software is a human activity at the end of the day and social software can improve those activities by communicating and situating change in the context that matters most: the people that are trying to operate the business.

Another Enterprise 2.0 expert, Sameer Patel, agrees that adoption is a common denominator in our new software world:

Enterprise projects may come in on budget and even meet stated project goals. But if the inherent user interaction and collaboration incentives are not accounted for, adoption will falter. That applies as much to SOA engagements as it does to Enterprise 2.0 transformation, because both expect participation to thrive.

My take. SOA and Enterprise 2.0 are not usually discussed together; however, both tend to be voluntary, involving "social" and organizational aspects of computing in business.

As the paradigm for enterprise software evolves, existing definitions of success and failure must also change to reflect an increasingly social software world. Adoption is a foundation point of this new world.

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