David Linthicum of ZapThink wrote a short article recently on SOA as a Corporate Responsibility. While I enjoy reading David's writings, there were a few things in this article that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The article ended with the advice to:
"resist the temptation to redirect resources toward tactical business needs"
If I were a CFO and someone in IT told me, "We want to embark on a significant change to our environment. It's extremely important and strategic. It's going to cost a lot of money. We won't see any measurable business benefit for a long time. Can we get your OK?" I'd tell them to stick their proposal where the sun doesn't shine. Any responsible CFO would do the same (though perhaps a bit more tactfully).
It's just a fact of modern business that you have to demonstrate business benefit (i.e. ROI) quickly. In a CFO's mind, anything which cannot be measured doesn't exist as far as budget allocation goes. Your SOA infrastructure strategy must show tactical business benefit. So even if you must direct budget towards achieving that benefit it's in your best interest to do so because if you don't, you won't get the chance to see your strategy out to is completion.
Backtracking a bit in the article, though, David says:
"the reality is that many of these enterprise architects simply don’t have the political or budgetary authority within their companies or government agencies to make much of a difference"
To me this sounds very self defeatist - it's an excuse someone uses when their SOA strategy fails: "The man never gave me what I needed to succeed." The reality is that you don't need budgetary authority and you can create political clout (certainly no one can give you political authority - it's not a transferable commodity).
SOA What? Ok, let's break this down then:
The real trick is achieving these benefits on the first project. At the outset of a SOA initiative, not every project will show measurable benefit of using SOA... but some will. The key is to choose the right projects. You, as an enterprise architect, need to learn to say, "no." "No, this project shouldn't use SOA techniques yet." "Yes, this other project should."
Now, you won't make people's lives easier by trying to introduce draconian rules, policies, SOA governance infrastructure, etc. You will make their lives easier by understanding what makes it hard and actively looking at ways to get rid of that complexity. If they are struggling with creating security code in their application, give them tools that offload security for them - it will make their lives easier, they will be more productive, and project costs will go down (even if they need to buy additional software the productivity costs should be able to pay for it if you choose the right infrastructure). This will build up your political capital.
In the end, don't let anyone tell you that "all you need is X" to make SOA successful. Whether that's a vendor hocking their products, consultants hocking their services, or analysts hocking their methodologies. You can make SOA successful if you tackle it one step at a time - delivering measurable business benefit at every stage. Just call me the Tony Robbins of SOA. :-)
View all posts from dan foody on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.
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