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.

Recently the SOA discussions have turned ugly and everyone is talking about SOA failures. As Eric Roch said yesterday:

It is troublesome to hear SOA architects argue about the arcane details of SOA implementations, especially when there is no grounding in actual requirements.

Eric goes on to say that...
SOA should have a business sponsor and a steering committee like the huge IT initiative that it is. SOA should change the business and for the better! In the age when the vast majority of IT are buying not building applications many SOA pundits talk as if we can throw everything away and start over for the sake of architecture purity. The fact is we are stuck with legacy systems and are constrained by the SOA strategy of the application vendors like SAP and Oracle.

Eric seems to be the only person out there who agrees with me that SOA should be sold to the business. I have constantly been told my numerous industry experts and popular bloggers that this is impossible and is a total waste of time. Maybe I need to clarify my position and finally convince some people that this is the way to get the business to support and fund your SOA initiative.

Selling SOA to the Business
When selling SOA to the business, you must talk in business terms. In fact, you shouldn't even mention the word SOA. My company went through an impressive growth spurt over our first two decades growing at rates of 20-30% annually. Over the past few years our growth has peaked and now we are growing at a more modest rate. Now that things have calmed down from the high growth years, we are looking at ways to control costs. One area that has tons of opportunities is our business processes. We had been moving so fast for so many years that our processes have become largely outdated and inefficient.

A few of us in IT saw a huge opportunity for the business to reengineer their business processes. We convinced the business to hire a consulting firm to perform a business process analysis. The consultants documented the current state processes, worked with us to derive the future state processes, and performed a gap analysis that uncovered a huge opportunity with a very large ROI. Now the business was motivated because they could envision a future state where they would improve the time to market for our products, improve customer satisfaction, reduce the learning curve of their systems, and streamline operations. They were hungry for change.

That opened the window of opportunity to sell SOA. And sell it we did! We did not talk about SOA in technical terms. What we did tell them is that by leveraging a "new" technology, we could automate their entire workflow from contract to delivery without having to rewrite any of our backend systems. This new technology would allow us to connect their new web based systems to the existing systems through an "adapter". Of course, by adapter I mean services, but that term means nothing to the business. So here is what the business heard:
  • BPM will make our life easier, eliminate waste, and save us a ton of money
  • If we buy IT this "new" thingy, we won't have to wait years for them to replace our current systems.
  • IT will be able to deliver these new web based systems this year!
The result, the business funded both the BPM and SOA technologies and three years worth of projects as defined in our 3 year SOA road map. We created a steering committee led by the business that is the driving force of our BPM/SOA projects. We delivered our first project within a few months of buying the software, and have the next eight projects in the hopper to be delivered over the next two months. We are now starting another round of projects for a different business unit and discovering that we are already achieving a 30% reuse rate. All of this in less then 10 months.

So who says I can't sell SOA to the business? And who wants to argue that BPM is not the killer app for SOA? I am sure that I will get the same responses from the same people, but my project is living proof that IT can get the business to drive SOA. Without the business on our side, SOA would be nothing more then a fantasy for us.


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