Execs: SOA is more marketing than substance

Executives to vendors: Not with my company you don't.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Executives to vendors: Not with my company you don't.

The concept of SOA isn't going over too well in the executive suite, one new survey shows. Writing in Silicon.com, Tony Hallet cites a survey of 100 UK-based IT directors which finds overwhelming skepticism with the SOA concept.

At least 84 percent of the respondents felt that thought their CEOs and CFOs do not understand SOA and its benefits. At the same time, two-thirds of the IT heads in the survey consider it hyped and a term used for marketing purposes.

Melvin James, enterprise services director at Diagonal, put it this way:

"There is far too much focus on SOA at a detailed, standards level. It actually isn't about IT projects but delivering business transformation and benefits."

James was also quoted as saying that all the hype and mixed messages coming from vendors have "clouded" awareness over the potential benefits SOA could deliver. Top executives are also hesitant to spend more money on technology-based projects versus leveraging current assets and improving processes.

Thus, it would appear that C-level executives either don't get SOA, or nervous about what they do get.

We can assume that North American executives share the skepticism of their UK counterparts. In a previous post, I cited the perspective of Vinnie Mirchandani, who said that organizations often tend to get lost in or burned by large enterprise deployments. "Technology is like cholesterol - the good kind and not so good kind," he writes. First, we have all the ERP, supply chain management, and CRM stuff, sucking up millions of dollars and staff time. Then enterprises added security layers to the technology, followed by all the requirements of compliance mandates. We have processes managing processes."

No wonder the C-level folks get nervous when vendors talk about rolling up an organization's entire infrastructure into an SOA. The industry needs to deliver more education to the business about the capabilities and cost savings SOA and Web services can deliver -- such as code reuse, integration, and better interaction with business partners. For example, AberdeenGroup recently calculated that the savings could total up to as much as $53 billion over the next five years.

But, as I noted previously, SOA may still be perceived as more of an IT suboptimization process than a business driver. The big issue is the visibility — or lack thereof — of SOA within enterprise walls. In the Aberdeen study, for example, only 16 percent of companies they surveyed had any measurable experience with SOA, defined as having worked with at least two or three projects over the past 24 months. SOA is invisible, and if successful, should remain invisible. And the industry needs education, education, education to help executives understand all this effort is worthwhile.

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