Lack of available expertise is now being highlighted as a major blocker to SOA adoption in 2007. What organisations need is expertise around how they can plan, create and deploy SOA successfully. This requires individuals such as architects and programme managers with the ability to develop and deliver a programme as potentially complex and all encompassing as SOA can be. However, it also requires expertise in the organization specific processes and data models – many of which are in fact not so much organization specific as specific to the industry segment it operates in. Therefore it is perhaps surprising that we haven’t heard more about industry specific frameworks for SOA: templates or “Solution Maps” as SAP calls them which provide a fast track by providing the industry expertise pre-canned.
In the past (pre-SOA), I have been sceptical about industry specific frameworks and in particular wondered whether they were actually clever ways of packaging up consultants with expensive industry specific knowledge. A scepticism I brought up with a senior manager in a European retail bank who is an early adopter of SOA of about 4 years standing. His view was that leveraging the industry based patterns that he is now using (provided by IBM in his case) earlier on would have been a significant benefit in reducing the effort and risk associated with his programme. As such a framework was not available when he started, he had to create his own framework: Using somebody else’s even if it had to be adapted would have been a major benefit in terms of time, cost and risk.
Of course whether it will work for you will depend very much on the industry you operate in, whether its processes are sufficiently standardised and whether it has attracted the attention of one of the firms creating the frameworks. However for industries where it does suit the benefit for users will be significant and the opportunity for vendors will also be big. In fact, I believe that for these “framework-friendly” segments the competitive landscape may be considerably different: The vendors with the greatest knowledge of providing industry specific solutions will be in a very strong position. In particular IBM and SAP should dominate as they have the customer base and expertise and are already investing heavily on creating the frameworks.
As such it may well provide SAP will an excellent opportunity to break out of its ERP-centric SOA niche (selling to customers who see SOA as an ERP extension) and get some return on the investment in their Cinderella-like SOA strategy: just like Cinderella, it does all the right things but still gets ignored by all the Prince Charmings!