Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Selling SOA - controlling the message

I get to do presentations quite a lot and help people with how they message around SOA and selling to the business. One of the core parts of this is how important presentation skills are and how sometimes you have to face it that you might have the content but you don't have the presentation skills. The problem is that when you don't recognise this you can find yourself hijacked by someone with better skills and thus find yourself part of their agenda rather than your own.

Bill Gates summed up this dilemma brilliantly when he did a sit down with Steve Jobs.

You want about 7:15 in when they talk about the Microsoft input into Apple II, which was around Basic. Bill starts talking acronyms and clearly trying to talk up the BASIC that he did (fair enough), Steve then steps in and reduces the Microsoft input to being just doing floating point.

The thing to think about here is that your best presenter and negotiator might not be your best architect and techy. So when you think about messaging to the business and explaining what you do think about who is best able to present that message. Have the detail guy ready to go if needed but focus on the person who can get the message across. This is an important part of an SOA journey and one skill that is often under-rated in IT.

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Mike Kavis said...

Here is how I sold SOA to the business. In my case, the techie and the communicator is the same person.


Robert Evans said...

Does it ever bother you that you need to sell SOA in the first place?

Isn't it a little irresponsible to entrust these sort of purchasing decision to people who don't have the capacity to reason about what they are buying?

Seems to me that there is something structurally wrong with IT when it pays its own IT Architects to act as inside sales for a "materials provider" let alone an architectural style like SOA.

What am I missing?

Steve Jones said...


Its great if you can do both, but sometimes I've seen the best technology delivery guys be the worst people at selling that technology, my point was just make sure that you really can do both or get someone who can do the later for you.


If you don't ask you don't get. Nothing in business should be done without someone putting the case forwards, it shouldn't just be wish list based or enforcement of old approaches. The point on selling is that although the case might be strong its the delivery of the message that often really matters. This means that you can have a good case but screw up because you don't present it in the right way for the audience.

Put it this way, I've seen people in Sales pick their best negotiator when it came to discussing revenue recognition with the finance department, the Head of Sales didn't do it himself because he recognised the better skills that existed for that problem in his team.

A good message with a crap communicator is liable to be a crap message in the perception of the business.