I didn't see the brilliant analyst Anne Thomas Manes at either of this week's IBM IMPACT or Software AG's SOA Summit events, but boy, was she there in spirit. The topic still on everybody's minds and lips at both events was Anne's pronouncement at the beginning of the year that "SOA is Dead; Long Live Services."
While the preamble of the title, "SOA is Dead," grabbed a lot of headlines and generated huge discussion, it's the second part that often got lost in the shuffle. But some commentators did pick up on what Anne meant; that businesses need to get busy focusing on delivering services that fix a problem or deliver more value; and not get caught up in the idea of having some kind of an "SOA project."
Anne's blockbuster statement was also a part of a panel discussion I had the opportunity to moderate at the just-concluded Software AG's SOA Summit 2009 in Phoenix. The panelists -- which included Jason Bloomberg of ZapThink, Bjorn Brauel of Software AG, Susan Cramm of ValueDance, Kevin Flowers of Coca-Cola, Miko Matsumura of Software AG, and John Rymer of Forrester -- engaged in a rousing discussion of what the next phase is for SOA, and how to sell the concept to management and the organization. The panel brought together many of the day's speakers for a wrap-up session with the audience.
In his presentation kicking off the summit, John Rymer said that Forrester's surveys show plenty of strength in SOA adoption plans -- for example, 27% of the largest enterprises currently have SOA in place, and 33% are committed to moving in this direction. SOA principles themselves did not die, but rather, "SOA died a marketing death," meaning that the approach has become so vital and basic to enterprises and as a part of packaged applications that marketers have moved onto the next big thing. "When a technology becomes vital, it dies in a marketing sense," he explained. "It's time for SOA to 'die' since it's not distinguishable anymore since everybody's using it."
By the way, John had a very amusing adaptation from Anne's original "asteroid" graphic (seen here), in which the asteroid (economy) was seen bearing down on SOA (the dinosaur). In John's slide, the asteroid represented SOA, bearing down on the dinosaur representing "IT inefficiencies."
A lot of the speakers talked about moving into "Phase 2" of SOA, which moves the methodology from technical projects to that of business transformation enabler. This is the phase when business value is being recognized and documented. This is also a time when SOA proponents need to step up and show the value of these approaches to the business.
In his keynote, Miko Matsumura, chief strategist for Software AG, said the time has come to 'step out of your silo," as SOA is providing many companies a way out from the complexity that has built up over the years. Along with complexity, he adds, "on top of every silo is a tribe."
Kevin Flowers, director of enabling enterprises for Coca-Cola Enterprises, described his SOA journey, which began with the service-enablement of merchandisers through mobile technologies. Previously, merchandisers -- who work out in the field, visiting stores -- keep in touch via an 800 call-in number and paperwork forms. Kevin's team set out to provide Blackberries with links to all merchandising services, and in the process save tens of millions of dollars in phone charges and travel expenses.
Interestingly, corporate management wanted to pull the plug on the project, but Kevin's team believed in the project so much they just plowed ahead with it. Now, he says, the effort is delivering so well and efficiently that the sales organization is demanding that they get the same kind of solution as well.
Organizational resistance is perhaps the biggest roadblock to service orientation, so it was also neat to see that an organizational leadership coach was brought into the program to show how SOA proponents can take a leadership role in move things forward. Susan Cram, a leadership coach with ValueDance and author of the "Have IT Your Way" blog, outlined the four ways to promote SOA adoption in enterprises, even when there is resistance:
- Make SOA the default way to build and offer services.
- Find the opinion leaders in organizations -- especially those resisting SOA efforts -- and spend more time working with and influencing these individuals. "People are pack animals and want to fit in," she says.
- Employ scarcity. People place higher value on things that are scarce. Make SOA-based services a premium offering that not every department can simply sign up for.
- Monetary incentive. Cramm says penalties for non-use of SOA may go a lot further than attempting to reward SOA adoption.