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Governing the Infrastructure.

David A. Kelly

Is SOA Portfolio Management Really Necessary?

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I've previously blogged about SOA Software's new Portfolio Manager product, which provides a framework for organizations to maximize their SOA investments, mainly through better planning and priority processes. Overall, I was impressed with the product and still feel it's a solid step in the right direction for many organizations that are using or intending to use, SOA.

However, super-sharp analyst Tony Baer, in an article for Ovum's Straight Talk service, has a question:

"Although not covered by existing SOA management tooling, the practice of portfolio management for software projects is already addressed by project or product portfolio management tools. The question is, is SOA such a special case that it demands its own governance silo?"

Tony has a good question--do we really need a SOA special case here? In short, my response is still what it was when I wrote the original blog. In other words, "yes." But let's look a little closer at Tony's perspective.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) products were designed to help IT managers manage IT in a way that the CFO and business managers could understand--what's the investment in certain projects, what's the payoff, etc. By treating IT projects in a similar manner to financial investments, business and IT leaders are able to make rational and informed decisions about existing and new IT investments.

One of the problems, as Tony points out, is that the PPM systems require a huge amount of data, on an on-going basis, to provide the information necessary to make those informed business decisions. In effect, PPM's comprehensive approach to the problem is both a positive (when done right and filled with the right information, it can help organizations make the right decisions) and a negative (without complete information, decisions will suffer, and the overhead required for the care and feeding of the PPM system can become more of a waste of effort than a true value add).

That's where the opening for SOA-focused portfolio management, like SOA Software's Portfolio Manager come in. Portfolio Manager is designed to do a similar thing, but just for the area of SOA and SOA services.

From Tony's perspective, this is reasonable, but not optimal:

"SOA Software claims that its solution is a much simpler approach for managing service portfolios. We believe that in the short run it offers a pragmatic option for the select group of IT organizations whose SOA initiatives have hit critical mass. However, organizations should use it as a bridge strategy only.

In the long run, service portfolio management is just a workaround that, if left standing, would create an additional governance silo. As SOA should be a means not an end, it cannot survive in the long run as an island of automation."

Any he's right. For most organizations, if they've chosen to implemented Portfolio Management, SOA portfolio management should be a subset of the organization's overall portfolio management. In effect it's like saying that SOA governance and management should be separate from IT governance and overall IT management systems. Of course they shouldn't be. But sometimes they are--due to the developmental stage an organization is at, or due to a specific need to manage or address specific technical (or process) capabilities that aren't yet addressed in a broader, more global product, it can be a wise move to invest in more focused, specific solutions.

That's why I feel that SOA Software's Portfolio Manager product is the right product, at the right time, for SOA. In general, we're not there yet with traditional PPM products (or even management products). SOA is still a specialized case in so many ways, that it makes sense (at least for now) for organizations to reap the benefits that a targeted approach like this can deliver, as long as they have an eye on a longer-term strategy where such capabilities are eventually rolled into a broader view.

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Portfolio managers have a great deal of responsibility within an organization; not only do they have to be mindful of individuals responsible for managing portfolio components, but they also have to be mindful of executive management, which sets the strategy.

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David A. Kelly's blog explores how organizations can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their business processes and IT infrastructure through proper governance.

David A. Kelly

David A. Kelly is a monthly columnist and Blogger for ebizQ. View more

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