Amid the excitement surrounding service-oriented architecture (SOA), and in spite of the stream of implementation success stories publicized by SOA vendors, numerous companies are struggling. In some cases, the problem is that SOA projects are failing to meet their targets – they may be overrunning, exceeding budgets or simply failing to deliver the level of service the business expected. In other cases, while some SOA projects are being delivered, a lot of the promised strategic benefits, such as reduced costs through elimination of duplicate resources, are failing to materialize. There are also plenty of examples where, although SOA has been selected as the desired strategic direction, projects are not choosing to use it, causing SOA progress to fail to make the transition from the drawing board to production operations.
Executives are in a quandary. Is it time to bite the bullet, and pull the plug on this new-fangled initiative? Can SOA initiatives be brought back on track? Is it all just too difficult? Would additional hiring make any difference, or should external skills be brought in? Or is SOA just a big con?
The problems all relate to the same root – SOA is really different. At its best and most productive, it is not just a technology but a different approach to delivering IT-enabled business solutions. The principles behind SOA are clear, and there are enough success stories around to seem to confirm its viability, so the problem has to be one of knowing the practicalities of what to do and how to do it. But because SOA is so different, and spans both business and technical disciplines, many organizations are just not currently set up to be able to appreciate the full picture – they just don’t have that level of SOA maturity.
This is where experienced help comes in. Tapping into the benefits of SOA experience combined with relevant expertise can make a huge difference. Often, the changes required are not radical, but are just a way of looking at the problems from a different, broader perspective. By bounding activities, getting a properly justified plan in place and adopting best practices, a lot of the SOA confusion can be cleared up quite quickly. An incremental delivery approach can significantly mitigate investment risk, and also provide an opportunity to validate benefits before proceeding to the next step. Of course, choosing the right supplier of this experience and skill is critical to success, but even here there are guidelines that should help companies make the right choice.
In the end, all that most executives want is clarity. Once the confusion has been cleared up, and it becomes possible to get an accurate and measurable picture of the business justifications for SOA and the performance of the teams responsible for adoption, then the decision of whether to continue down the SOA road or take another path becomes much easier.