Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Lego Analogy

Very interesting this post about the use of the Lego analogy when presenting enterprise software. The Lego analogy is an old pal. I remember it in Visual Basic, then I remember seeing it in Zope talks. I never saw it in SOA, but then, I don't pay a lot of attention to the SOA thing.

I also think Lego is a bad analogy for enterprise software. From my experience with computers, the closest to the Lego would be a scripting language with a large object oriented library. One can just start assembling a bunch of pieces, no previous design needed, and in a reasonable amount of time get the wanted result.

When I think of SOA I usually think more of something in the line of the Garderna system. In most of these accessories water is meant to flow, so hoses of different dimensions are needed to connect the pieces. Since all pieces connect using the same standard, it becomes really easy to plug and unplug equipments to the hoses.

But people are not expected to build the equipments, each piece is already a fully working product. People just have to think what are the pieces they need for their garden (or they start by buying the basic and then add more when budget allows).

And of course, like models, all analogies are wrong, but some may be useful.

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Blogger Thomas Otter said...

Thanks for the link...!
The challenge with the lego metaphor is that the bricks are just the starting point.

Here is a bag of standard bricks go build something significant, the difficult bit then starts.

the Gardena analogy is useful. I'll be borrowing it!!!

11:30 AM  
Blogger bigbluemeanie said...

I think that those of us who work with SAP know very well that implementing Enterprise software is a lot more complicated than either lego or Garderna.

I doubt many people ever been involved in a 18 month Garderna or lego roll-out, the components of both are simply not complex enough.

Both are good analogies of what one might want to achieve in a small-scale software development, but they are at least as problematic as analogies as they are useful.

11:12 PM  
Blogger pvl said...

Thanks for your comment thomas and bigblue.

Sure, the complexity of doing enterprise software implementation is huge and I also know it and live with it.

Talking a bit more on Lego, I think it is a misconception that it is easy. I remember playing with Legos for long hours. For sure it was quite simple to build those buildings and units that had detailed instructions. Then there were those units that one could see a picture in the box but had no instructions. I knew that I had all the bricks to build them and I had a picture (and a magnifying glass to be able to see the picture well enough). But I don't recall this as an easy task. Many, if not most, of the cases I was not able to build the unit, or at least it become a bit different from the picture (on the other hand, it was quite a kick when I was able to do it ... humm good times).

And then there were those times I just had an idea for a space ship or for a building and I decided to make it real with Legos. I think I was never able to exactly build the original idea. It was just too damn hard and I ended up with some variant that probably had more of the bricks that happened to be closer to my eyes. Anyhow it was hard, fun but hard.

Those guys that invent the Lego units probably have one of the best jobs on earth. It would be really good if doing SAP implementations was such a fun and creative task. I mean, it would be good for us. But, from my experience with Legos, not so good for the companies.

10:19 AM  
Blogger bigbluemeanie said...

pvl: "Talking a bit more on Lego, I think it is a misconception that it is easy"

I take your point - you can make complex things in Lego. Still I think that Lego is used in this context as a analogy for the construction industry (which we have a lot in common with). I have posted a bit about this on my blog.

12:24 AM  

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