SOAphobia? (Fear of SOA...)

Do IT shops fear SOA as much as they do SaaS?

Dave Linthicum got a kick out of blogging colleague Phil Wainewright's observation that many IT shops may be afraid of Software as a Service. He takes this thought another step and wonders out loud if IT shops may also fear SOA to some degree. ("SOAphobia"?)

Phil quoted Crownpoint's Jim Howard, who estimated that "two thirds of companies are missing out on the potential advantages of a SaaS solution simply because the IT department(s) are scared of trying SaaS."

Fear of loss of control has been a natural impulse behind resistance to outsourcing for years, and continues to be -- thus its new emergence, by extension, in the SaaS realm.

Dave observes that SOA may raise objections from the caretakers of enterprise applications on the basis of security, control and performance concerns:

"The problem with both SaaS and SOA (which I think are intermixed at a few levels) is that both technologies are so different from the current IT practices, and will change the fundamental way that IT works. Many in IT found those changes threatening to the way they operate today. The new approaches are scary for some reasons that are typically not real, but seem very real to them. Moreover, they have to give up some control to make the new approach valuable. That's not something people like to do, generally."

Let me add to Dave's thoughts that fear of SOA may also come from a healthy skepticism of vendors' overselling of SOA as a fix-all for tough integration problems or overblown IT budgets. As Dave observes, IT may be tired of hearing about the latest "magic bullet." SOA is an incremental process that may not deliver immediate returns to the business, thus potentially putting careers at risk if things don't work out as fast as management expects.

Another fundamental may be at work as well. Namely, that SOA is an enterprise venture, not an IT venture, and requires support -- and funding -- not just from one internal client, but from from numerous players across the organization. As is often the case in such situations, IT may find that folks outside of IT may not know exactly what it is they want, or that preferences are buffeted around by sudden changes in the business. Thus, IT may indeed be afraid to stick its neck out for a project that may get trounced down the road.

Dave recommends that the best approach to overcoming SOAphobia consists of listening to both end user and IT departments, and providing education, and lots of it. "Not sure we'll ever be able to take the fear out of SOA in the short term. Only execution and success stories will raise the cloud of suspicion."

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