Analyst: seven ways to get SOA back on track

Seven 'fixes' for struggling SOA efforts
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

SOA is still being held back by perceptions that the methodology is a set of IT best practices, versus business best practices.

In a recent presentation, Forrester Research's Randy Heffner provided an analysis of what's holding SOA back, and what it takes to move it forward. I had the opportunity to join Randy in an informative session on what should make SOA tick.

Here are Randy's Rules of SOA success:

1- SOA is about good design, not cool technology.

2 - SOA is about business design, to provide flexibility for how and where via what channels we do business, to interface with any partner or customer.

3 - SOA requires big change, but take it slowly and incrementally. You don't have to get all of SOA "right" to get value out of SOA.

4 - Good designs requires good governance. Good governance has participants, bad governance has victims.

Randy cited Forrester survey data that showed general acceptance of SOA principles within a majority of enterprises, but many pockets of trouble. About 18% to 25% of Forrester's survey group said they are still "struggling with SOA, and they're not going to expand further until they figure it out."

What are they trying to figure out? Randy points out that "SOA is a diificult and complex initiative," and to succeed requires "reframing from some of the broad messages you hear in the industry."  Companies struggle with SOA, he explains, because, first, "they treat SOA as a technology" rather than a business transformation. Second, they "treat SOA as objects and components," and third, "they over-focus on reuse," which is but one of the benefits.

Randy suggests seven "fixes" that can help get SOA off the narrow technology project track and onto the business services track:

Fix 1 -- Use SOA to create a business model. "Use SOA based bus services to insert a layer of simplicity around the business where you most need it."

Fix 2 -- Build service portfolios, not service libraries. "The library view can be a very haphazard, amnesic way to manage services. Service developers will forget what services are out there.... We're trying to leverage projects, and put them within this broader strategic context withoin our porfolio."

Fix 3 -- Adopt a "street-level" strategy to address both short and long-term SOA. "We need to move away from this big-bang approach to SOA." A street-level strategy is adaptable to any shifts in the business -- such as hard versus good economic times, Randy adds.

Fix 4 -- Avoid the reuse trap. "Yes, reuse is a good thing, and you will see benefits. But it's not all about reuse, it's about the right design, and reuse is the side effect that should be happening as you're doing good design."

Fix 5 -- Adopt a variety of SOA funding strategies. You can get SOA money in and of itself, get SOA funding for solutions that use SOA, or get it through training or R&D programs. Most SOA funding comes from solutions-oriented projects, Randy says.

Fix 6 -- Do SOA governance. If a company was event doing just one or two of the 12 best governance best practices covered in Forrester surveys, it "was correlated with higher satisfaction with SOA," Randy says. "Even a little SOA governance leads to satisfaction."

Fix 7 -- Do more SOA governance. "If you're doing SOA right, SOA is far from dead," Randy says."And SOA governance will keep it on track."

If you're making incremental progress with SOA, then you're creating success with SOA. And there's a switch that happens.  "All of a sudden you don't have to justify SOA," Randy says.  "It becomes how to make SOA better is the justification, versus whether or do or not do SOA."

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