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Maps and Paths

A brief twitter exchange triggered some thoughts about expectations and how those determine whether something is a good A, a passable B or a terrible C.


Turn by turn navigation in a mobile app
Turn by turn navigation in a mobile app

When you want to go somewhere and you do not know the way, you need directions. Somebody or something needs to show you the path to follow. That’s what turn by turn navigation on your mobile does. Following this path does not mean you got to know the area. You know one just one way to get from A to B know.


London Underground map from 1908
London Underground map from 1908

A map, on the other hand, provides an overview, context and alternatives but no immediate path.
Using a map means you have to actively engage with the information, see for yourself which roads cannot be taken (maybe you are in a huge truck and the small sideways with wood bridges are not going to work for you) and eventually plot your own path.

Both maps and paths, are related but are far from being the same.

A useful analogy

This analogy works not just for navigating transportation networks.

If your company wants to build an information system to do X then usually it will give the job to someone with a path to get there. It does not need to discuss all the alternative technologies or architectures. When X can be achieved reliably, in-time and on-budget, then that’s usually already a great outcome. Getting such a path (think project) is commodity shopping.

On the other hand, when you want to do new things or old things in a very different way than before, a path is not the answer to that. This is where you need to work with a map. You need different viewpoints and scenarios to walk through. This situation requires you to discover and create a path. You can buy help for this process but you cannot skip the work.

(You might notice, that product or service roadmaps are specifically not maps. They are usually paths with a decreasing level of certainty towards the end. They can provide a heads-up to what might be coming but they don’t show alternatives, contexts or overview.)

To avoid disappointment and frustration it is important to be clear about what you expect.

Are you asking questions in user forums to get a map? Do you want blog posts to give you a path from A to B? Do you want to discuss options and discover/create paths?

For the SAP Community Platform getting answers to such questions will be important to avoid further disappointments.

Not a New Year’s thing

Happy New Year, dear reader!

I hope you had an enjoyable and relaxing time between Christmas and New Years Eve with your thoughts away from work. I can say, I did.

During this time I took the opportunity to finish some thoughts on my engagement with the SAP Community Platform (SCP) where I have been a moderator for the SAP HANA topic/tag for several years.
I have also been a top contributor for most of the time since I joined the platform and its predecessors – my current profile picture there states that it has been 14 years and a bit by now.

During my tenure, the SAP HANA community grew, new volunteers joined the moderator team and many experts and users shared their experiences, insights and questions. Today, this community is the place to go to ask SAP HANA related questions and I take pride in knowing that I helped to kick-start it.
But now, no starting assistance is necessary any longer and I my professional focus has shifted to less HANA centric topics (I work in the SAP Health team) and so I decided to hang up the “moderator’s hat”.

I have worked on a second “project” that initially triggered setting up the Lars Breddemann Blog: all my blog posts covering topics from SAP on Oracle and MaxDB over to SAP Business Warehouse and SAP HANA can now be found right here.
Given their first publication dates, many of them are outdated, but some seem to still enjoy interest from readers.
As the SCP was re-platformed a couple of times, I think it is easier to have them at a steady “home” with this personal blog.

Since there is no automatic way to download all my blogs from SCP and upload them to WordPress, this migration project was a manual copy & paste activity during several long evenings and weekends. The comments and discussions to the blog posts could not be copied. To read those the interested reader still needs to go back to the SCP version of the blog post.

Having to re-read my own blogs from the last ten years was quite the experience. Look the horrid English, behold the dire need for a copy editor and witness in shock and awe the ever repeating phrases!
It was a tough reminder for me to try to be more careful with my texts. I will try to follow the guidance of real writers (like this) in future texts.

So long, dear reader, have yourself an interesting 2018!