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Choking on SOA

One of the problems now facing the advocates of SOA is the very expansiveness of the concept. It promises so much from an architectural perspective, yet often leaves business decision-makers cold.
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Written by Britton Manasco on

One of the problems now facing the advocates of SOA is the very expansiveness of the concept. It promises so much from an architectural perspective, yet often leaves business decision-makers cold. You can't eat "enterprise agility." Yet that's the true promise. The SOA vision directs us to a point just over the horizon when IT will dynamically respond to the continuously changing demands of the business. It will even sense and respond to market changes and customer interactions in the moment as real-time, "event-driven" capabilities proliferate.choke 

But it all feels pretty abstract at this point. It's pretty hard for business decision-makers to get excited about the "reuse" of services and the reduced cost of integration. Yet, that's an excitement that must be generated.

The top challenge we face -- and must address -- as SOA advocates is the challenge of defining the true levers of market growth. Right now, the ROI of SOA seems to be everywhere and nowhere. We are beginning to see real success stories start to emerge through our coverage on this site. Companies such as Starwood, Keybank, Fireman's Fund, T-Mobile, Motorola, and British American Tobacco offer us a glimpse of things to come as they roll out their own SOA initiatives. However, this is not enough.

We need identifiable, high-impact market levers. But where to look? Here are a few vectors on our opportunity map:  

  • Business Processes. Levers may be found in certain business processes such as those encompassed by customer relationship relationship management or supply chain management or even the integration of the two (back and front office).
  • Decision Making Roles. We may find levers in the pain of certain executive decision-makers (be they VPs of Marketing or VPs of Procurement).
  • Vertical Markets.  We may also find levers in certain vertical markets -- such as financial services or hospitality or even government -- that prove to be early adopters.
  • Geographies. Some entrepreneurs are even trying to find leverage in particular geographical regions. (Asia is considered particularly promising because it has not invested as heavily in conventional "enterprise application integration" approaches as America has.)

The point is we need to determine where to place our bets. Our pile of chips is not unlimited -- and it won't be replenished if our early bets don't deliver. My concern at this point is that we seem to be spreading our bets too far and wide. Our efforts to position, market and sell SOA seem too unfocused -- and that's a dangerous thing to be. We are choking on this great big elegant concept.

Whether we are working it from within the enterprise (as architects and IT mavens) or outside it (as vendors and consultants), it's time to look closer -- and deeper -- at where our true points of leverage lie. If we find them, we have a much greater opportunity to generate market momentum and turn the SOA promise into a reality.  

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