In a recent InformationWeek survey, 24% of respondents from large corporations said their SOA projects “fell short of expectations.” Of these, 55% said the reason for failure was that the SOA initiative “introduced more complexity into their IT environment” — ironic , given that one of the benefits touted by SOA proponents is that it reduces complexity.
Actually, I don’t find this ironic so much as realistic. There is a tremendous level of complexity underlying the so-called simplicity of SOA. This technical complexity creates a burden on IT to ensure that SOA projects meet the needs and requirements of business users, who are of course the ultimate consumers of web service solutions. From this perspective, SOA projects are no different any other enterprise software deployment. Project failures typically result from business or process, rather than technical, causes.
The InformationWeek article makes this point clear:
The bottom line: from an implementation perspective, SOA projects are no different than other software deployment. If the technology doesn’t kill you, failure to attend to business requirements just might.
As CEO of Primitive Logic, a San Francisco Web services consulting company, Bob Hamer has seen a fair amount of botched work lately. He met last month with two top execs at a multibillion-dollar company that had created two collections of Web services code that did the same thing. Another client had a big IT project in which a vendor sent in lots of software experts but didn’t talk to the businesspeople who ultimately had to use the stuff.
“Where I’ve seen great technology projects fail is when business doesn’t see it as important,” says Terri Schoenrock, Hewlett-Packard’s executive director of SOA. More than a quarter of SOA projects she’s seen have fallen short of expectations. “And it’s usually about business and IT alignment problems.”
Problems with SOA projects aren’t just related to technology. Good management and governance of the projects is also a top concern. Primitive Logic CTO Pete Conner says failed projects often result from lack of strong governance over IT and business objectives, including clearly defined stakeholders and architectural standards. At companies whose SOA projects fall short of expectations, “I would bet some major money they didn’t sit down at the table and look at the business side,” he says.