Saturday, December 08, 2012

Learnings From My "Dead Simple SOA" Workshop on Saturday

As announced earlier, the workshop that we (my business partner Rahul Singh and I) organised on "Dead Simple SOA" took place yesterday (Saturday the 8th Dec), and here's what we learnt from it.

Fundamentally, the ideas we are trying to popularise are seen as useful and worth pursuing. That was a very welcome piece of validation. However, we do need to refine our message and target our audience better.

We got largely positive feedback from the two participants (the low registration rate is itself a symptom of poor messaging and targeting), but also some valuable feedback on how we could improve it.

1. There are two sets of messages in the workshop, and this dilutes its appeal. This is because the draft white paper on which the workshop is based ("Slicing the Gordian Knot of SOA Governance") itself deals with two separate (though related) themes.

One theme is "How to do SOA". This had a number of new and useful ideas that the participants commented favourably on.

The other theme is about "How to do SOA Governance and Management". While the ideas behind this were also appreciated, here's what seemed to be lacking:

a. This topic is of interest to a different group of people, - perhaps managers and enterprise architects, whereas "How to do SOA" is of interest to solution architects, designers and perhaps even developers.

b. There is likely to be unease over the fact that my method challenges the accepted industry view of SOA Governance as a technology-related practice, which creates dissonance and may make people reluctant to pay for a "heterodox" course. If I want my approach of governing the entire enterprise through dependency-oriented thinking to be adopted, I should rename it to something else rather than try and redefine the term "SOA Governance". That train has left the station.

I seem to have a choice here. In the candid words of one of the participants, I have to "choose whether I want to be a philosopher or to build a business". Because if I want to build a business, his suggestion was to quietly align with the industry model instead of trying to challenge it, and then make money by offering to train people in the "universally accepted way". [I do think I can carve out a niche by being different without aligning submissively with conventional thinking, but there is a point here. A "flanking" strategy of coining a new term may work better than a "head-on" strategy of challenging a widely-held set of views.]

2. We need to improve our marketing, both in reach and in targeting. I don't know if we managed to reach most of our target audience with news of the workshop, and whether they could identify themselves as the target based on the workshop brochure. We relied on our membership of various LinkedIn groups to reach the professionals we were connected to, and some of our friends helped out by relaying the message to their contacts, but I'm not sure what proportion of our target audience is reached in this way. Some more research and refinement is required here.

[Although we didn't get direct feedback on this aspect, I believe the price we are charging for a full-day workshop is reasonable ($450 plus 10% GST = $495, with an early-bird price of $400 plus GST = $440), and this includes morning and afternoon tea as well as lunch. The room and audio-visual equipment that we rented at the UTS Haymarket campus was OK, but not great. The air-conditioning couldn't be adjusted, and the data projector's screen obscured the fixed whiteboard, making it impossible to use both simultaneously. The catering was satisfactory in terms of quality but their commercial terms were somewhat unfavourable. We had to pay for a minimum of 10 people regardless, which was wasteful.]

Action items:

1. Over the next few days, I will split my draft white paper into two parts, one dealing with "How to do SOA", aimed at solution architects and designers, and the other dealing with "How to do SOA Governance and Management", aimed at enterprise architects and managers. In the latter, I will touch upon the differences between my approach and the industry definition of "SOA Governance", and use a different name for mine.

2. Future workshops will be better targeted. We will design our SOA workshops to focus on one or the other of the above topics, not both combined.

3. We will look for newer and better ways to communicate news of forthcoming workshops to industry professionals. Some brainstorming will happen in the weeks ahead.

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