MegaTrend controversy: Why Innovation Matters

on November 11, 2010
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As a reaction to my MegaTrend post, James Taylor posted a response on his blog (  It is funny how we can disagree on he surface while being in violent agreement on the fundamental issue.  Let me explain.

In short, James says that more features in existing BRMS products would only lead to more complex and unusable products.  He claims that we, as an Industry, should invest in training and frameworks.  I do not disagree with that but I think he may have mistaken my point on innovation.  I am not at all interested in more features / more complex products.  Innovation is very different from adding capabilities on an existing product.

What’s Innovation?

With my Product Management hat on, how could I not mention the infamous quote from Henry Ford?

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses

Innovation can be about adding capabilities on top of existing products of course but real, creative innovation is often about creating a disruption in the existing product lines.  The beauty of the creative mind is to think outside-the-box to find a new and different way of empowering users, to spread adoption or to enable new usage, with a solution that does not resemble the original product.

Innovation is, for example, coming up with an iPad when the rest of the market is working on making computers faster, lighter, etc.  Changing the user experience by removing the keyboard, adding touch, some gyroscopic technology inside such that my 3-year-old can intuitively pick it up and start using it.  Granted he eventually figured out that the touchpad moved the mouse on the screen on his laptop, but he did not need ANY guidance at all with my iPhone or my iPad.  He just started playing the marble game or popping balloons — totally intuitively.

What’s the innovation we need for Business Rules?

It all comes down to what the #1 issue is…  I believe that most projects fail because of the complexity of the technology.  You need to be an expert to design a good Business Rules or Decision Management project.  I have met lots of experts that were really good and still failed on some projects.  I have seen people who struggled to find the right resource, trying out several consultancy firms.  If the technology is too complicated, we need to address that very problem.

Training or framework do help a little.  They reduce the learning curve but they do not take it away completely.

This “iPad” user experience is the kind of innovation we need in this industry.  Not yet another new feature on top of existing products.  Not simpler product by removing existing features (learning curve as always been an issue even with version 1 of those products).  But simply a totally different experience for Business Users and Business Analysts that are struggling to use existing technology.  We need to figure out how to give them an iPad-like experience such that it does not require experts to get started, such that learning curve stops being an issue, such that they can focus on the quality and performance of the business decision that they are making rather than the technology that executes them.

I believe that Decision Management technology can be dramatically improved to deliver such benefits.  I think that once Decision Management will be “simple”, the very nature of Business Rules will become clear as well, to Mark Norton’s point.  In that context, we will be able to finally treat them as corporate assets as they deserve to be treated.

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