SOA market surveys: Buyers beware

Eric Knorr commented in InfoWorld a couple of days ago on Forrester’s latest market adoption estimates for SOA which showed much lower rates of adoption than the same survey suggested a year ago.

In my opinion, the key problem is probably not SOA adoption itself but problems with surveying end-users about hot technology areas.  This is an area that I have recently covered in an insight called Interpreting Market sizings:  It is a serious issue for organisations attempting to figure out what the real market take-up is and when or even if they should follow a particular technology trend.

Coming back to the article, Eric states that:

“SOA sounds great, but boy, is it hard. Especially on a wide scale, because doing it right generally requires rethinking how IT is organized.”

While I have some sympathy with the author’s sentiment, but Eric’s view really relates more to when and whether you decide to go for the wide scale big bang approach as opposed to the more achievable incremental build up.

More importantly, the evidence for this statement is the discrepancy between the 14% of respondents surveyed last year who said that they would implement SOA in 2006 (not including the 39% who already had) and the 2% who actually had a year later.  This is a great example of the “Everybody’s doing it apart from me” effect.  Asking aspirational questions about what we hope to do next year will always give misleading and optimistic answers. It is as true for healthy eating as it is for SOA!  This effect is particularly strong with anything that is generally considered a hot topic (like SOA).  This is of course not to say that the respondents didn’t genuinely think they were going to do a SOA project.  But must-do projects appeared and other projects extended and then the wished-for SOA project was never got to.

What does all of this mean?  It probably does mean that SOA take-up is slower than the more wild claims – no surprise there.  It probably also means that people aren’t doing SOA as fast as they would like to – things always take longer anyway.  However, it almost certainly doesn’t mean that there is a radical slowdown in actual adoption.

Finally… It is good fun to knock this survey and others (such as the one last year which claimed that 90% of companies would have exited 2006 with “SOA planning, design and programming experience” based on a sample of a massive 120 respondents).   However, as I said at the start, the whole area of market surveys is a serious topic as it distorts perceptions both at the start and later on when more general adoption does happen.  All of which means, with surveys – buyer beware!


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