Write, Teach, Laugh

Off the Cow Path

Originally published on the SAP Community Network – 

This is the beginning of a lot of things.  It’s the beginning of our implementation of  SAP.  It’s the beginning of a mind  expanding (not crushing, I hope) technical adventure.  And, it’s the beginning of the “Off the Cow  Paths” blog.  Hang in there with me.  You’ll get it in just a bit.


Cow path inspired

The public agency I work for chose SAP after an exhaustive  eighteen-month RFP process.  This effort  was named “The Agency Wide Systems Management (AWSM) Project.”  We pronounce that “awesome”.

Those of us on the AWSM team received our SAP01 Overview  training a few weeks ago. I sat towards the back of the room and noticed that people’s  heads we’re shaking.  Some up and down  and some side to side.  The message this  kinetic exhibition was trying to communicate was either, “Yep, that’s the way  we do it”, or “Nope, you’ll never catch us doing stuff like that.”

Switch to 5000  feet above Boston.  Note the twisty,  seemingly organic layout of the streets, coming together at strange and  inconsistent angles, taking meandering curves here and there.  Talk to Bostonians and they tell you that the  street design – or lack thereof – resulted from streets following the well worn  paths developed from it’s agrarian past.   You know, “Moooo”.  Boston, sophisticated and  charming as it is, will never have an efficient transportation system because  the street layout is based on cow paths.

Those heads shaking vertically or horizontally were doing so  because they felt comfortable when the instructor seemed to validate their  particular well worn path.

Now look  at Chicago.  It’s encounter with cows  and urban planning was somewhat more drastic, but, after the fire was put out,  the results were splendid.  Almost all  the streets run north and south.  The  blocks are consistent in length throughout the city. You can go anywhere on a  bus and not get lost.

In designing our new systems with SAP, we must resist the  comfortable call of the cow path.  We  certainly could use the tools included in SAP to recreate our legacy  system.  What a tragedy it would be to do  so.  Instead we must question everything.  No matter how convinced we are that they way  we do it is “absolute truth”, we should consider the alternatives.  It’s not often in the history of an  organization that you have the opportunity to change everything.

The purpose of this blog will be to share the AWSM off-the-cow-path  experiences and to encourage others to do the same.  The great advantage of being a beginner is  that you don’t know that what you “can’t possible do!”

What have you done in your project that has broken new  ground?  If you haven’t had the  experience yet, then, go ahead, kick over the lantern and feel the warmth of  the cleansing flames.  I’ll be looking  forward to hearing from you.

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