Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Panel: Enterprises Too Busy Service-Orienting to be 'Disillusioned' by SOA

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There's been plenty of chatter across the blogosphere and among the analysti about the growing "disillusionment" with service oriented architecture. I'm sure you've seen the headlines -- SOA is "dead," SOA adoption rates are down, SOA is not delivering ROI.

At an industry panel discussion hosted here at ebizQ, I took up the question of SOA disillusionment with a panel of experts, and the consensus seems to point to issues with management and perception, but organizations are showing no signs in letting up on their SOA deployments. It's fair to say that while plenty of SOA implementations often have not worked out as planned, many enterprises are convinced that service orientation is the way to go.  (Link to online presentation here. Full transcript here.)

Members of the panel included David Bressler of Progress Software; Dr. Chris Harding of The Open Group; Chris Kraus of ITKO LISA, Jignesh Shah of Software AG; and Phil Wainewright, ebizQ's new cloud/SaaS guru and prolific ZDNet blogger.

Here are some excerpts of what turned out to be a most scintillating discussion:

Opening the discussion, I pondered whether we're asking more of IT than it can deliver. IT is being called upon to sell the idea of transformation to the business as a whole. I've always felt this was a quite a tall order for IT departments, who are already overworked and overloaded with keeping things running.

The 'newness' of SOA has worn off, and enterprises are rolling up their sleeves and going to work on it. On whether there is indeed 'disillusionment' with SOA: "At The Open Group, I haven't yet heard anyone come up to me, or speak in the group and say, 'Well, I'm disillusioned with SOA' -- I haven't heard that at all," said Chris Harding. "What I have very definitely noticed is that there's no longer an interest in 'learning' about SOA. People are no longer seeing SOA as a great new thing... that they have to find out about. But they're still interested in working on how you use SOA, how you do SOA governance, how you integrate SOA into an architectural framework -- they're still interested in looking at those things. But what's disappeared is that SOA is a mystical new thing that we need to find out about."

But, perhaps there has been overpromising with SOA: "Whether its disillusionment or not its just a semantic thing, but I think it's the kind of thing where vendors -- of which I am one -- go out and promise the world to people, saying SOA is going to solve all of your problems," said David Bressler. "So they brought in some stuff, they to one extent or another implemented.. an SOA, or some sort of SOA architecture, maybe they even modified some of the way they deliver IT to the organization. They combined technology with process. Yet, they still have the same problems they had before, and in some cases maybe even more of them. Because now, instead of having a packaged application where they can now go beat up a vendor, they now have ten services, and they have to beat up ten vendors."

When proposing solutions to the business, don't call it 'SOA': "One of things that I've seen working with customers that have been successful with SOA is that when you're explaining, trying to sell SOA to the business side,  don't bother calling it SOA," said Jignesh Shah. "It's not to say SOA is not relevant to the business side, but what's more relevant is delivering services to the business.... This is not to say SOA vision is not even necessary. It's not to say you should not have a vision, strategy or a plan to go from A to B. But the way you sell it to the business should remain in terms that are relevant to the business."

Design services with reuse in mind: In successful SOA efforts, services are designed for reuse across the enterprise. "Quite honestly, it would be nice if we could say a service is going to be reusable next week," said Chris Kraus. "We're finding that our customers who are most successful with SOA actually did some architecture, and decided they're going to have a consistent view of a customer object or an order object, and actually redesign the interface to make sure it was reusable by multiple people. So the pilot wasn't to create a Web service to serve ourselves. It has to be something that is on purposely consumable by multiple people."

Work closely with the business on service iterations: "The concept of SOA is not something that is alien to businesspeople," said Phil Wainewright. "Because at the end of the day business is all about delivering services to contract, and SOA is all about IT delivering services to  contract.  ...your need to move away from the old waterfall approach to development, because pushing services out there is a learning experience. You need to push them out into the infrastructure and see if people are going to use them, and maybe you need to fine tune those services before you get the right granularity and the right set of features. ...SaaS providers have to iterate through several versions of their APIs before they get their integration story right going into the enterprise marketplace.  Being ready for change is ..part of the mindset adjustment to SOA."

Link to online presentation here. Full transcript 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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