Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

Yesterday I summarized my thoughts on Zapthink's article called Who's Killing SOA. Today I plan on answering the three questions that Jason Bloomberg asked his readers at the end of the article.

Do you feel that SOA is truly in jeopardy?

No. I think companies that don't approach SOA as a culture changing, long term investment are in jeopardy. The SOA value proposition is real. Implementing it is no walk in the park. You need strong executive buy in, significant funding which goes far beyond the stack, great people and great partners, world class tools, and a strong champion to take the team through the trenches and conquer the complex technology and culture challenges.

I believe that only 40-50 percent of the companies that try to implement SOA will eventually complete a few SOA initiatives. Half of them will get it right. The other half will confuse implementing a ton of web services with implementing a service oriented architecture. Those that make this mistake will not see the true value of SOA. So when the dust clears, I predict only 25-30 percent of the companies will get it right. This will cause a perception that SOA was another fad that has come and gone and left many companies in its wake. The reality will be that once again, many IT shops don't know how to manage large and complex projects.

Which forces do you feel are most responsible for the dangerous situation SOA finds itself in?

Leadership, resistance to change, and project management. Let's start with leadership. The IT person leading the charge must truly understand the concepts of SOA. That doesn't mean that they attend a Gartner summit and then start a project. This person must perform extensive amounts of research and understand the concepts of a distributed architecture, the benefits of a layered and loosely coupled architecture, and the need to view requirements and design at an enterprise level as opposed to an application level. In addition, one must understand some of the drawbacks of SOA like performance trade offs, complexity of managing a distributed environment, and the extensive investment in governance that is necessary to make it all work.

Resistance to change. One of the biggest killers to any new technology approach is resistance. The project champion and executive sponsor must constantly apply change management principles. The stakeholders must understand WIIFM (what's in it for me?), what the road map looks like, and how to get there. Roles and responsibilities will change, IT must work closer with its business partners, waterfall methodologies must be cast aside for agile methods, and new skill sets must be learned and/or acquired.

Project management. Any project that touches the enterprise and radically changes the culture and alters the existing technologies needs a strong project manager with a thick back bone. Projects like this can easily get off track. Some companies spend months and months generating documents and going into analysis paralysis. The PM must set aggressive and short milestones that force the team to show value to the business early on. The business can't afford to have IT's top talent go off into a closet for a year without delivering. Set delivery goals every 2-4 months. Show value early and often to get momentum, continuous buy-in, and to help foster change.

How can we work together to overcome the challenges, and craft SOA into the mature, ubiquitous approach we all desire?

Keep writing articles like Who's Killing SOA. Continue to encourage the EAs to collaborate via Blogs, wikis, etc. Continue to host meaningful conferences with industry experts to share the knowledge and lessons learned. One of the reasons why I blog about SOA is because I am learning this stuff on the fly and feel obligated to share my successes and failures so those getting ready to walk down the path can learn from my experiences or give me advice. Much of the valuable information that I gathered while studying SOA came from discussions that I encountered on the internet. Whether it was a good article on Zapthink or ZDNet that sparked comments from architects around the world, articles from experts who shared their experiences on their blogs on in wikis, or networking at conferences, every person's perspective was an important piece of information that I used to formulate my own ideas on how and why to implement SOA. The bottom line is that we must leverage the collective intelligence of all those willing to share their experiences.


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