Poll: companies waiting for 'tipping point' for SOA governance?

Poll: companies waiting for 'tipping point' for SOA governance?

Summary: Does SOA success begat governance, or governance begat SOA success?


Bob Rhubart published the results of an informal poll that shows that most IT managers and technologists know that governance is important to SOA, but don't really know when it should kick in.

Which comes first -- SOA success or SOA governance?

Governance is not here yet. Only 15% actually had a governance program up and running. Sixty-four percent were still in the "planning/research" stage.

Three percent, in fact, declared that their SOA was flourishing without SOA. Fifty-seven percent said governance was critical, and SOA will fail without it.

The other 40% said that governance is "somewhat" important to SOA, which is what had Bob wondering. Where's the "tipping point" that makes it "important"? He wonders if governance only makes a difference -- and is worth the trouble -- when SOA efforts hit a certain number of services, or a certain number of service consumers. "Or are they waiting until the need becomes obvious? When they reach that point, will they regret waiting?"

Bob also makes the observation that when asked about leading SOA challenges, introducing governance ranks lower on the list than other factors such as organizational barriers and insufficient skills. (Selected only by 13%.)

"That's not to imply that getting people to go along with SOA governance is a walk on the beach. But in the experience of survey respondents, it appears to be significantly less of an issue than cultural, educational, and organizational challenges. If the introduction of SOA governance is the path (or at least a path) of least resistance in SOA adoption, doesn't it make sense to start there, rather than approaching governance s an afterthought?"

Bob's observations are in sync with various surveys I have been involved with in recent years, which found that governance efforts tend to kick in when companies reach a critical mass of services. The issue is whether companies can't see the value in nascent service deployments, and are waiting to see how things go before investing staff time and resources to move to the next level, the governance level.

Of course, as Bob points out, governance should start right from the get-go to assure that success in the first place.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Software, Software Development

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  • Governance exists from day 1

    A group may not have a formal governance program or plan, but they have governance from day one. Governance is simply the establishment of rules/principles to follow and then making sure they are followed. For smaller teams, this governance is implicit as the team members follow a common set of principles.

    For those that say they've succeeded without a governance program, I'd offer that they likely have a strong leader or group that is very effective at communicating and leading their efforts--the governance is implicit in the day-to-day work.

    This is what many say is the preferred state--policies and approaches are just followed as a matter of course.
    • There's governance, and then there's governance

      On one point you're dead-on: SOA governance is indeed about effective communication. But as SOA pilot programs expand, that communication becomes an increasing challenge, one that governance by memo or the persuasive powers of individual leaders can't adequately address.

      And what happens when more than one team is involved? In the SOA ecosystem everything is connected. The actions of one team -- however compliant to local policies and guidelines -- can have a significant impact on others, and on the entire SOA. With informal governance, what measures are in place to insure that one team doesn't duplicate the work of another? What measures are in place to ensure the reuse of available services? What measures are in place to insure that what gets built fits into the larger plan?

      Effective SOA governance means taking the necessary steps to formalize the convergence and interaction of people, processes, and technologies to insure that everyone and everything involved is part of a specific, coordinated plan, even as that plan changes to suit evolving business objectives. Bottom line: Informal governance can't scale.
      • Good points

        You're right that at some point the practices followed by those leading the way need to be written down and more readily shared with others. The lead architects can't be expected to have their fingers on the pulse of everything, nor will they be able to directly influence every team out there--just not enough hours in the day!

        I hope I didn't come across as advocating only informal governance. Rather, I was pointing out that governance exists from day one, even if informally. As you point out, informal governance at the enterprise level is, um, challenging. :-)

        Side note: my comments also were about *governance* not "SOA governance." IMO, attaching the SOA label to everything is really counter-productive. The areas of concern you listed are not unique to SOA. They are of concern to any enterprise level effort, service oriented or not.