Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nerds who communicate - or why Europe leads in SOA

Joe McKendrick asks a question in his recent blog post "Europe leads with SOA: if so why?" and it got me to thinking. Reading The Economist in the bath tonight drinking a nice glass of Hine it suddenly stood out from the page

American kids grow up knowing that "nerds are bad, jocks are good". (His focus is exclusively American: in many other countries academically high-achieving children are revered by their peers.)

Now this got me thinking. When I work with European companies the gap between IT and the business tends to be less than that in the US. A main reason for this is respect which comes back to that jock v nerd thing that just doesn't exist and Europe and which is summed up by a conversation I had in Paris one night.

Watching a football game I got chatting to some guys, one of whom turned out to support the same team as me (the one time best team in the world Wolverhampton Wanderers). Later on that night we got chatting at the bar to two French ladies and one of the girls asked "what did you study". Somewhat embarrassed I admitted to having a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computing (lets face it I assumed they all studied philosophy) while the chap I was with proudly said he studies English at Cambridge. The response back floored the both of us "couldn't you get into an engineering polytechnic?" (Polytechnic meaning something completely different in France).

The point is that I find much bigger cultural differences between IT and the business in the US than I do in Europe and much of it goes back to school and university. In enterprises in Europe I find many more people who can "hold their own" when talking with the business (not about technology) than I do when I'm in the US. The technical skills of the two groups are pretty much similar, potentially with the US being ahead, but the communication skills in Europe are much, much higher.

So to answer Joe's question as to why. IMO its because in Europe being smart, particularly in Engineering, Maths and Science is seen as a positive thing while in the US it appears that to remain popular people have to subjugate this interest or face exclusion and ridicule as a "nerd". Before my first JavaOne (my first big US conference) I remember thinking of myself as nerd, because after all I was CompSci BEng, I did the late hours and I knew the technology. I came back realising that a European nerd can't hold a candle to the social exclusion of their US equivalent.

So why does SOA do better in Europe? Well its because in Europe the business, respects what IT does and IT is able to speak properly to the business. The focus of IT is much less on technology than it is on the business solution and (to be blunt) the girls in marketing will date the architects in IT.

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Anonymous said...

(the one time best team in the world Wolverhampton Wanderers).

seriously ?!

Daniel Lucraft said...

In this as in all things, I think the UK is half way between the rest of the EU and the US.

And I read the Economist in the bath too. But I prefer Cosmopolitans.

Anonymous said...

I think overall technology comparisons between the US and Europe are very questionable. Even if you restrict the discussion to SOA there is a lot of variability from company-to-company in the US and in Europe. I spent last week in SF and Silicon Valley and I'd be very cautious about declaring any geography a winner or a loser in SOA just yet.

I'd love to hear some opinions about the SOA efforts of SAP and Oracle. My position prevents me from making any statements on this topic on a blog although I have some opinions on the matter.

Steve - I'll be in London the week of Feb 4. Drop me a note at Donald.J.Rippert@Accenture.Com if you want to grab a drink (you can have a Hine, I'll have a beer). We can further explore your US nerd / jock theory. I was a boxer in college and a pretty serious student too so I'm comfortable with both sides of the US nerd - jock argument.