SearchSOA's Michael Meehan reported on the latest findings coming out of the recent Burton Group confab, and things aren't looking pretty for SOA. And it may even take outside intervention to set an SOA back on track.
'Many SOA attempts amount only to a less efficient method of doing EAI.' Ouch.
Anne Thomas Manes, who delivered the bad news (followed by some good news), said that the consultancy's in-depth study of 20 companies found a "50% complete failure rate," while another "30% were considered neither successful nor wholly failed." Yikes -- what's going on here?
As Anne put it:
"Many of them had deployed multiple successful projects, but most of those projects were focused on just one integration problem," Manes said. "It was just a bunch of Web services. … The service is only built for one application and it's never going to be used again."
She added that such JBOWS projects amount only to a less efficient method of doing enterprise application integration, or EAI. Ouch, that's a pretty stinging indictment of something that was supposed to go far beyond EAI.
Don't blame the implementers, though. It seems many of these efforts were akin to running the engine room flawlessly on the HMS Titanic. Their SOA efforts were superb, but the people on the upper decks had other concerns.
What about that 20% (presumably four companies) that saw success with SOA? The Burton Group found that success came to SOA proponents who pay attention to the cultural shift that needs to take place within the business, cemented by good governance. The successful businesses had what Anne called "incredibly inspiring" stories to tell.
Here are the common denominators Burton Group found within the successful efforts:
- Business and IT reorganization, usually with a new CIO coming on board
- Sponsorship at the C-level or by the Board of Directors
- Agile/iterative development methodologies put into place
- Projects tied to and measured by business goals, not IT drivers
- Well-defined funding and maintenance models that balance the needs of service providers and consumers
- A simplified architecture, making it easier to access and manage quality data
- A culture of trust between business and IT
The SOA-is-about-the-business aspect is something we discuss quite often at this blogsite, but the occurrence of a "new CIO coming on board" is kind of an eye opener. Does the catalyst for SOA come from outside the organization? Does it usually take an outsider with a fresh perspective to kick-start service oriented architecture? Do insiders get too comfortable with the established way of doing things? This also points to the vital role of an SOA evangelist (often the CIO, but it doesn't have to be) who can sell the business on what SOA can deliver.
One new CIO looked at a failed SOA attempt and knew instinctively that it was too siloed within the IT department. Chad Roberts, architecture director at Cigna Group Insurance (presumably one of Burton's four success stories) was on hand at the conference to explain how the company's original SOA effort, launched in 2004 with a technical integration focus, was canned in 2006 due to lack of interest.
Roberts re-started the initiative, recognizing that SOA needed to be positioned as a business transformation, not an IT project as it was before. The result "has been a full slate of SOA projects rolling into production with real business gains attached to them."
UPDATE: Lorraine Lawson provides additional insights on how CIOs can make the difference between JBOWS and SOA.