SOA balanced scorecard: idea whose time has come?

In the beginning was darkness.. now there are Balanced Scorecards. How a well-regarded business performance tool may work for SOA projects.

"In the beginning was darkness. We went to work, did our job (well or otherwise) and went home - day in and day out. We did not have to worry about targets, annual assessments, metric-driven incentives, etc. Aahh… life was simple back then."

- on Balanced Scorecards, from Businessballs.com

Balanced scorecards have been great front-end tools for business intelligence systems for some time, providing decision makers a view on how the most important and relevant aspects of their operations are performing. As the name suggests, it helps keeps managers' perspectives in balance as to what really matters and what doesn't matter quite so much.

Could the same kind of tool help guide and measure service oriented architecture efforts?  That's the idea put forth by Prabhu Kapaleeswaran and Robert Laird -- in the latest issue of SOA Magazine, they propose the idea of a "balanced scorecard" for SOA.

What would a balanced scorecard for SOA look like? Prabhu and Robert say it should have at least four measurable components:  financial perspectives, customer perspectives, processes perspectives, and learning and growth perspectives.

The components that would populate an SOA balanced scorecard break down thusly:

Financial perspective: the ROI of the organization, based on changes to the channel mix, cost reductions, and risk reduction.

Customer perspective: the objectives/value propositions that need to be provided to its customers to achieve the financial perspectives. Customer segments measured include external business partners, application developers, and compliance teams.

Process perspective: covers innovation, operational processes, and governance processes.

Learning and growth perspective: covers training, skills, standards body participation, and collaboration across the enterprise.

A balanced scorecard approach may help SOA proponents keep things in focus as efforts to service orient evolve. Often, the complaint about SOA efforts is they run adrift of the business, taking on an existence of their own. Balance scorecards may help prevent so much drifting. And, as Businessballs suggests, finally shed some light on the questions that keep SOA in the dark from the rest of the business.

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