Today was the opening day for the main TechEd conference. From what I heard most people found the opening speech from Anne Kirah interesting but not technical enough. This ‘division’ between the technology
community and the general public is always of interest to me. We saw it recently with the Telstra FTTN debate, the mainstream press could not comprehend how FTTN was any different from copper. I find the lack of depth in the articles bizarre because I am sure these people are researching, writing and submitting their stories over the internet. Anyway I was confronted again by this gap in a Biztalk session at TechEd this afternoon.

It was an interesting session, however it was quite poorly attended. Upon watching the session I think I realise why! It was revealed to me when they talked about the Business Scorecard Manager. There is a problem with the software/management interface (sure, like I am the first to say it). It is all well and good to provide nice clear graphs to management, but there are some obvious problems:

  • It is difficult for IT staff to understand what management need.
  • Management has changing needs and should be empowered by tools.
  • Management does not have the sufficient IT skills to manipulate a powerful interface.

Now of course there are some companies where these statements may not hold true, but they do in my (limited) experience. Indeed what manager has time to sit down and prepare a detailed breakdown of every statistic they will need? What manager has time to learn a new interface and regularly tweak their statistics? What manager works closely with their IT team on a day to day basis? The only answer to those questions is the Microsoft
development team. Products like BizTalk and Scorecard Manager cannot be implemented successfully unless a massive re-training and business analysis effort is put in place.

With Microsoft not offering a large scale consulting divison this means partners need to fill the gap. This is a very tough gap to fill. Can it ever be filled by a budget product? Companies would be looking to cut costs wherever possible, and small companies rarely have the cash (or time) for a detailed business analysis.

So what is the solution then? Software that ‘learns’ how the business works by itself? Integrated tutorials similar to Vista’s new guided help functionality? I think it is part of a wider management shift towards seeing IT as a source of competitive advantage rather than just a business overhead.

One day smart managers will wake up and say “hey my companies value is locked up in one massive database, maybe the guy who has the keys can help me unlock it?”. I would love to see this go mainstream, who knows how long it will take (maybe as long as it takes to create the killer business analysis UI?).