Reading about SOA is like watching a tennis match. One day it is the answer to everyone's prayers, the next day it is too complex and the business doesn't want it. The arguments go back and forth day in and day out. I can tell you that SOA done right can totally transform a company. There is no one way to approach it but I will share the method that we used.
Step one - Research the living daylights out of SOA. Read blogs, go to conferences, interview companies who have had success, read books, talk to consultants who have been through many implementations.
Step two - Find a business problem to solve. What is a major pain point for the business? What key business drivers or goals can you align with? Can you create revenue opportunities or cut costs by reengineering business processes? If so, sell SOA as the technology to enable BPMS tools.
Step three - Find a strong executive sponsor on the business side to support this initiative. Remember, this must drive business value in business terms. Reusable business services means nothing to the business. Reducing costs, increased sales, and improved customer satisfaction does.
Step four - Create a multi year vision supported by a road map of projects that deliver incremental value to the business in short time frames (2-4 months or less). Produce a business plan with supporting financials for each and every project within the road map. If you try to justify the entire road map as one number, you are putting the whole initiative at risk. We found that justifying each project as a stand alone deliverable allowed us to get most of the projects approved and funded. Don't make it an all or nothing proposition. You will likely lose.
Step five - Present plan to executives, including vision, road map (future state), and financials. Show the ROI, IRR, and your best estimation of when the break even point is. It helps to know your executives and what their thresholds are. If you know this information, keep working the plan until you can produce a road map that meets their needs for an acceptable investment. If you can't produce numbers good enough, either you picked the wrong initiatives or the time is not right for you to pursue SOA.
Step six - If you successfully secured funds, now the fun really starts. Now comes the SOA planning and change management (culture) challenges. Go to websites like Zapthink or take their 4-day bootcamp to figure out the best way to approach SOA. No need for me to publish that here when there are many great resources available on that topic. Here is a link I did on change management a while back.
That is a recipe that has worked for me. As I said before, the problem with SOA is not the technology. Only people can screw up SOA. That doesn't imply that SOA is easy, but all failures point to one or more of the following:
- No business buy in
- No executive support
- Poor project management
- Lack of understanding of SOA concepts
- No governance
- Doing SOA "on the cheap"