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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Panel: SOA Governance Answers 'What's in it for Me?' Question

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On paper, SOA governance seems like the logical approach to introduce service-oriented methodologies to the business. However, in practice, SOA proponents run up against vested interests, or lack of motivation to make SOA work.

Think about who has to be signed on to the SOA efforts: developers who will be expected to reuse someone else's code, departments that will be expected to share code with others, businesses that will be expected to perhaps devote more funding than usual to the technology underlying their processes, with the expectation that future implementations will be more cost-effective, and business leaders pressing their departments to be more agile.

These were some of the issues tackled at ebizQ's recent SOA Governance panel I had the opportunity to moderate, which consisted of a stellar line-up of industry experts: Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director with Burton Group, and former Chief Technology Officer at Systinet; Ron Schmelzer, managing partner with ZapThink; Frank Martinez, senior vice president, product strategy for SOA Software; David Bressler, SOA Evangelist for the Actional products at Progress Software; Ed Horst, vice president of marketing and product strategy for AmberPoint; and John Michelson, a founder and chief scientist of iTKO LISA.

(A full transcript is available here. Archived audio replay available here.)

Panelists debated the ability of SOA governance to address the 'What's in it for me?' question that slows down many an SOA initiative:

Anne Thomas Manes first tackled the 'What's in it for me?' question with SOA:

"Anytime you want to get somebody to do something for you, you have to answer the question what’s in it for me? If you’re trying to ask the business guys to give up a certain amount of self-determination by accepting the use of another service, or if you’re asking them to perhaps give up something special that they wanted for something more generic, why are you asking them to do this, and why would they even consider doing that if they have to give something up? then it’s really important to explain what’s in it for me.. and here's what you want to do. When it comes to a governance program… if you can make the governance program helpful to the people … who are required to adhere to is, as opposed to something onerous… then they’re going to be a lot more happy about following the rules."

Ed Horst addressed the issue of providing the right incentives to get people to sign on to SOA:

"It all comes own to, Whether it’s a Web 2.0 thing, or in-house SOA thing or whatever…… it boils down to answering the what’s in it for me question… there’s the obvious incentive kind of approach… you actually pay money to people for their behavior. It can be as simple as providing visibility…. Just being able to report accurately What ruse is actually happening and actually getting deployed and reused… … …almost turns it into a bragging rights kind of thing… its almost just personal bragging rights.. for one organization versus another for how often services are reused and not another…. So the incentive doesn’t always have to be monetary."

Ron Schmelzer discussed peoples' perceptions of SOA governance, and why there may be resistance:

"In general, people’s perspectives on governance are probably colored by the role that governance plays in their organization as a whole. Part of the reason why you’re seeing perhaps some resistance to the concept of SOA governance is in the past organizations in the past have Tried other flavors of IT governance… that actually have been heavy-handed… As they say, everybody likes governance, nobody likes to be governed."

Jon Michelson talked about how people may be far more willing to accept governance at a more decentralized, "local" levels, versus more centralized approaches:

"We found that very analogous to the governance analogy in the physical world. That federating or layering the governance policy is how it happens. If you think about it, my homeowners association, it wants to know where I'm going to put my flag. But at the federal level.. that would be an absurd notion for them to decide such a thing. So we are more tolerant of greater control closest to us than we are far away. So if there’s this very distant group of people who decides on how were supposed to build and consume services, then we will tend to react negatively toward that. But if there is even if it’s a fairly onerous set of policies, but it’s shared, and its owned by me and my close constituents. I tend to be more willing to do it."

David Bressler said SOA governance needs to be better automated, and current registry repository tools do not accomplish this:

"You used the word automatic; you just said it has to capture this information, whether its about the service directly or the metadata about it. In fact that is where registry repository has failed. Because its not capturing anything.. its not automatic at all… and frankly its nothing more than a fancy spreadsheet of information about your services that you can email… around once a week to your development team."

Frank Martinez connected the dots between SOA governance and business planning:

"There are certainly some opportunities around our planning activities. When you look at this, it really just goes beyond just runtime governance, design time governance or change time governance. You also have to include plan time as well. When you’re looking at those external relationships… Part of those governance decisions is deciding when its more efficient to leverage externalized capabilities versus internal capabilities, what sets of criteria when it makes sense from a business perspective to do that. Ensuring that we actually take advantage of governance opportunities is equally as important throughout our planning activities. It shapes the decision tree, how we achieve the appropriate business outcome."

Archived audio replay of the entire panel discussion (45 minutes) available here. A full transcript is available here.


In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more


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