A budding realization around Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) is that the chances of it succeeding rest not just with technology and even process, but with group organization and influencing how people behave. The good news is that SOA has the potential to transform how businesses build and adapt complex business processes using old and new IT applications and infrastructure.
The bad news is that in order to enjoy said transformation, the adjustments to adapt to SOA need to go very deep within large organizations, to change how groups inter-relate, and to newly manage how cultural barriers stand and fall. Anyone who has tried to change how organizations behave, even small ones, knows how daunting this can be. Those who have tried to change how software developers behave, well, once they have been weaned from the Thorazine ... .
So what to do? Apply more technology to the need to remake cultures, of course. And so it is with the debut this week of Coral from Mindreef. The connected hubs of department-level Coral servers and associated platform are designed to foster more collaboration among those most affected by SOA principles: the people. Most-affected groups include developers within their own application types (ie, COBOL programmers in CISCS on mainframes), line of business planners and analysts within their own process types (ie, supply chain managers), and the newer groups working to bring policy-based management and governance to the intersection of IT and business imperatives.
Indeed, various types of developers -- those who fulfill the role of service procurement from a variety of specific legacy environments -- need to be in process synchronization with their service procurer cohorts. Just as importantly, these service enablers must be in smooth collaboration with the line of business people who are trying to create process efficiencies -- with fluidity and quick response -- in alignment with the dynamic business goals of the day. Yes, so it's Tower of Babel time culturally for organizations, and the free-flow of warm mental love needs to happen among previously sequestered IT fiefdoms, not to mention across the chasm between IT and business managers.
It sure looks right now from what we see of SOA pilots, and the complexity that sprouts from only a handful of services, that SOA will not scale effectively unless groups of people who previously had nothing to do with one another make like Mr. Spock and assume the Mind Meld position. Indeed, so much effort has been devoted to figuring out how to establish and manage "contracts" between SOA services technically, it seems critical now to establish and manage conformance to how those people affected by services and repeatable SOA resources should react and behave anew. Collaborative tools like Coral strike me as a prerequisite to successful broad SOA implementation.
Coral aims to usher in process collaboration and methodologies for for SOA development and refinement for accelerating process lifecycle productivity amid a SOA. Mindreef is setting the stage for a governance dashboard on SOA lifecycle creation and management. Nice thing about it: It doesn't force the variables into a central repository (remember knowledge management?) but instead recognizes the virtues of metadata. Users can use Coral as a centralized repository for SOA governance if they wish, or as a distributed hub for federated management; take your pick.
I suppose we should now think of SOA lifecycle management as a new category. Just borrow the notion of application lifecycle management from Rational or Borland and apply it freshly to Web services, SOA, and cross-cultural collaboration tools that span IT and business process work, and there you have it.