I've been meaning to surface one of Dana Gardner's latest SOA BriefingsDirect podcasts, in which we were joined by Miko Matsumura, VP of marketing for webMethods (now Software AG/webMethods of course). Miko has a gift for translating complex SOA topics into mentally tangible metaphors, and the chat turned to an interesting analysis of how SOA governance closely parallels national governance.Does SOA work better as a federated democracy or as a benevolent dictatorship? And who pays the taxes?
Dana has a link to the podcast and transcript here.
The discussion first focused on what SOA "failure" is, and Miko predicted that "in 2007 we’re as likely to see catastrophic failures as we are limited success. There are a huge number of moving parts within SOA..." Miko went on the explain what he saw as the most dangerous moving parts of the SOA assemblage: people.
"The system is sort of cybernetic; half-human, half-machine. The human pieces of SOA are the parts that we’ve seen in failure mode. It’s not necessarily just the human beings themselves, but the interfaces between the human world and the machine world, whether those interfaces are the specifications used to design applications, or the mechanisms used to manifest constraints and policies."
Good governance is a reflection of the way people are organized and motivated to contribute to the greater good, and for guidance in this department, Miko suggested looking to the way national governments are set up and powers are separated. The federal government of the United States provides a good model as to how to set up SOA governance, he pointed out.
"You have a bunch of business units called states, that each have their own legislation, their own competency centers called state legislatures, and even their own executives called governors. Those look a lot like business units to me."
That's where the principle of jurisdiction kicks in. "Ultimately, competency centers become the legislative bodies within these organizations," Miko said. "All of the efforts that I’ve seen to codify methodologies around SOA tend to focus on these competency centers or centers of excellence, primarily because there needs to be an inclusive organization for adjudication and jurisdiction, as opposed to having a model, where it’s just a single iron-clad dictator that controls all policy."
To which Dana added: "We’re getting at the point where world political history is perhaps a guide to how to approach SOA. Do you want a Third World dictatorship? Do you want empires extending their influence? Do we want a Pax Romana approach? Or do we want a pure democracy or a federated democracy? I’m thinking more about Star Trek, when the Romulans and the Klingons get together. If you could only get that to happen in IT, would be in a lot better shape."
Of course, there are plenty of companies that tend to approach such efforts in a dictatorial fashion, but its likely SOA approached this way may end up in the ash heap of history.
Some large companies are already framing their SOA governance structures in the model of the US Constitution. Skip Snow, senior vice president and chief SOA architect for Citigroup, said overseeing SOA at a company with 300,000-plus employees and more than $1 billion in revenues every 11 days would be just too onerous and overwhelming for one governance committee, or even series of committees — just as it would be impossible and dangerous to manage a nation of 300 million citizens with a one single government entity. (My original post on the Citigroup story is here.)
Citigroup’s SOA initiatives are divided along a separation of powers between the federal (enterprise) level, state (divisional) level, county (line of business), and municipal (departmental) level.
Citigroup’s SOA governance structure is federated in nature, with a "separation of powers" similar to the way the US federal government is structured:
- An “executive branch” (IT) oversees operational aspects, as well as development and design;
- A “legislative branch” (executive management and board of directors) establishes the goals and directions of SOA efforts; and
- A “judicial branch” (enterprise architectural boards) deals with conflict resolution and compliance audits.
Of course, there's also the whole issue of raising revenues for governments, one that is particularly on the minds of US taxpayers this week in April. Fellow ZDNet blogger Robin Harris adds a new twist to the governmental analogy, observing that "IT services are paid for by taxes, not prices, so users have little incentive to support SOA. Since IT can’t relate costs to service prices, any SOA cost advantages are buried. SOA means uncertain application execution, so users will hate and fear it."