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Head-scratching survey: UK SAP sites lag in SOA adoption

UK companies lag in SOA interest. Why?

The authors of a new study of SAP users across the UK found that that a majority of respondents didn't quite grasp what service oriented architecture is all about.

The study, conducted by the SAP UK & Ireland User Group, found that "55% of UK organizations questioned either didn’t understand SOA or hadn’t got a strategy in place to implement it. SOA is the underlying architectural direction for all future applications development, yet only 13% of UK organizations questioned said that they were actively using or preparing to use SOA, while the remaining 32% were simply investigating it for their business."

There's actually nothing startling about these results. In fact, the finding that 45% of organizations either have SOA efforts underway or are considering it is right in line with surveys I have been involved with, or have seen for companies here in North America.

The head-scratching part of the survey was that when contrasted against global results, the UK seems to be behind. The user group reports that one-third (33%) of organizations globally said that they were actively using SOA -- almost three times the UK rate. Another 27% were investigating implementing it, for a total of 60% in the SOA camp globally. (A total of 147 companies were surveyed.)

In the press release, the study's authors did not explain what they think the reasons are for the discrepancy between the UK and the rest of the world. I have not seen any other evidence of UK-based companies being behind the curve on SOA, so I have no explanation. The UK is the birthplace of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) so it would seem some sense of service-enablement is already baked into UK corporate operations.

Can any readers provide their perspectives on whether or not they see a lag amongst UK companies?

The other surprising aspect of the survey is that these are SAP users, so it might be assumed that they have more highly developed SOA methodologies underway. But again, these findings seem to be in line with other surveys of general IT populations. SAP has been pretty aggressive in pushing the SOA approach, particularly through its NetWeaver and SaaS offerings. SAP made statements a couple of years back vowing it would be the leader in SOA, and rapidly move its customer base to SOA.

The lesson here is that you can't drop an SOA-enabled application environment into an enterprise and expect a quick move to SOA. Even though major applications may be on their way to being "service oriented," that doesn't make a business or IT operation service oriented. SOA is a transformative process that the business undertakes in partnership with IT, above and beyond any technology solutions or platforms.

Maybe UK companies are quicker to recognize this.