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Is Excel a Good Tool to Get Started With Governance?

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Joe McKendrick: It's said the key to good governance is starting as early as possible. Given that it takes time to requisition and implement a governance solution, is Excel a good tool with which to get started?

Please note, SOA Governance will be covered in the SOA in Action Virtual Conference coming soon!

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  • In the spirit of full disclosure, I do work for a company who offers a SOA governance software solution and set of services.

    The best way to get started with good governance is with people. The most successful customers I've seen have taken the time to do the following:

    1. Figure out what is most important to their organizations in terms of what they want to identify and govern, where "govern" consists of defining a policy, who it applies to and whether it is to be monitored or actually enforced.

    2. Figure out who the owners and stakeholders are in terms of what is being governed.. who owns the measurement and enforcement, who is participating in the policy compliance process and so forth

    3. Set up a clearly defined team to instantiate the initial governance process and who also owns garnering support and adoption of governance as a goal

    There is value in working this people/process angle on an intial basis before full sponsorship and support has been achieved for an automated governance software solution.

    In that phase, readily available communication tools such as excel and e-mail can be used but the team needs to be aware that they will quickly run into scalabilty issues. Once the governance process has been initially tested and has support, the move to automated governance software greatly increases odds of success and cost savings.

    The metaphor I like is that you can build a house with manpower but it's alot easier to build one with manpower and power tools and I certainly wouldn't want to build an entire subdivision without tools.

  • Yes. And this is how the majority of SOA governance initiatives start and should start.

    Having said that, while many organizations already realized they need a collaboration tool (such as SharePoint) to work on shared documents, they don’t get to the same realization with regards to SOA governance.

    The biggest mistake enterprises do is not to realize how quickly they need to move on from excel to a fully automated SOA governance solution.

    The blame, by the way, falls on the SOA governance vendors that are not capable of articulating the benefits of an automated solution over excel.

  • I'm going to have to say no. Not because Excel is a poor facility for capturing governance information, but because it's not expressive in the ways that governance needs to be expressed to be effective for relaying a message to the business. Governance can be very political and complex to express. In fact, governance is very process-oriented and Excel is not a great facility for representing those processes--PowerPoint would be better in this regard.

  • I completely agree with Guy. Having worked for a product company primarily dealing with a SOA Governance product– it’s always been a hard sell.

    1) Though many would disagree but finally no one is ready to invest in a SOA Governance product with a couple of services/assets - costing thousands of dollars.

    2) In my experience people also use wiki’s to manage their assets

    3) In the initial phases of any SOA implementation, the learning curve is steep which makes the development/architect team go through a discovery phase in which they figure out the various facets of SOA

    4) The usefulness of a SOA governance product doesn’t surface till late in the enablement phase as specifications such as UDDI or ebXML – subscription, custody transfer, attribution, versioning just doesn’t make sense in the beginning.

    5) Today, if you take Web services as an asset for instance, the incompatibility is still as issues such as many of the php based services are still non-compliant with WS-I – if you talk about policies as such!

    I think it’s more about how you phase it out. A SOA road map is a key and what you use in the beginning may not be that relevant.

  • It's the chicken-and-egg paradox... Should you wait until you see some SOA success before investing in advanced governance tools? Or do advanced governance tools help ensure early SOA success?

    Surveys we have conducted here at ebizQ show that more advanced, automated governance solutions do deliver more effectively than manual governance (or no governance at all).

    However, SOA at the outset needs to be as rapid turnaround, lightweight, and as low cost as possible. There is already a significant level of staff resources and expertise that is required. Therefore, lightweight tools such as Excel (and wikis) are a good transitional phase to consider while you start getting your arms around governance at the beginning.

    As Soumadeep points out, why make a tough sell (SOA), any tougher by requiring upfront tools investments?

    However, once underway with a critical mass of services, more advanced reg/rep tools are called for. And this transition may happen quickly, as Guy points out -- especially if demand catches on.

  • Well, any tool is better than nothing, but Excel might be the worst I could imagine. At least let's get a wiki going, so that collaboration and sharing are easier. If you just don't buy into the concept of managed governance, this is a low barrier to entry. If at that time you see value in the exercise but issues with your ability to standardize or maintain the amounts of data getting published, then you can consider the value prop of a more appropriate governance solution...

  • I do agree with Kelly as well as John on “any tool is better than nothing?. Excel is not a good tool but can work for a short wile “a crawfish is also a fish when the real fish is absent?

    At the beginning, we need a registration means of the rules and policies about what services will be and what tools to use to build them. This means must be strictly controlled from updates by unauthorized personnel. Then we need a means for service registration: meta-data for the service capabilities, Real World Effect (result) and invocation.

    Excel can keep this info for us but it is not real SOA Governance tool, of cause. Unfortunately, in some companies, managers react to the requests for investments only THEY feel the pain for not doing the job. So, one can start with Excel, survive for a shoet time and then demonstrate it does not work any more…

  • Excel is valid and limited starting point for SOA Governance. In many cases I recommend to clients not to start their SOA initiative by buying tools. However, Excel can be used for governing some aspects of a limited number of services. It can not be used for governing the architecture. After implementing 10+ services it is not good enough. I assume that currently, most organizations implement more than 10 services.

  • As with any “project? you should be starting out by understanding what your end goal will be and selecting the right people and right “tools? to perform the job. If the “project? is an SOA initiative then you should be using a SOA Maturity Model (SOMM) which will provide you the guidance necessary to be successful, not only in the beginning but all along the way. Where the first strategic goal is a “simple quick win project? and the tactical plan would be to “build a pilot?. When you start your pilot you will start your governance as well. As you escalate up the SOMM your governance will grow and mature appropriately if you are using “Smart Tools?.

    I am perplexed that it is a “Given that it takes time to requisition and implement a governance solution?, in which case you should be using Excel to get started. I have over time seen the abuses of Excel in the name or time, cost, and man power just because it is a tool on my desktop.

    If we are talking about “governance? in terms of understanding what assets you have, want, and need to create in order to accomplish a successful SOA initiative, and I assume using Web Services, then Excel would not be where I would start nor do I believe it has the necessary expressive language or constructs to put together a “governance? inventory. It also does not have the ability to be used for life cycle/versioning of the assets in an automated way. I fear you will be putting your efforts into something that will require more re-work than the benefit will produce.

    Again, with anything you do if you are serious then you should be using “Smart Tools?, which, in the long run will save you time, money and of course man power.

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