Is SOA a code word for 'downsize'?

'We've had some companies that said going to SOA is a way to downsize.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

It's one of those paradoxes of business in the 21st century: SOA growth may be hampered by skills shortages, but at the same time, there is a real fear that SOA may take away jobs as well.

SearchWebServices' Rich Seeley reports that one of the topics that came up in a recent OMG SOA Consortium podcast was the potential threat SOA posed to developers' jobs. For example, IBM's Fill Bowen said that "we've had some companies that said, you know, going to SOA is a way to downsize."

A large company with multiple development teams across different business units will see SOA as a way to consolidate development efforts to concentrate sharable services. At least that's the value proposition continually preached by vendors and consultants. Of course, every conclusion is that developers made redundant could be directed to "higher-value" business tasks.

Less enlightened companies, of course, could seize upon the SOA opportunity to cut, cut, cut. (But there aren't too many companies like that out there, right?)

ZapThink's Ron Schmelzer is quoted as saying that there's a good reason for developers to feel some angst over SOA. "The SOA movement is architectural, not technological, and this means that folks who have skills only for developing or building new assets will be at a significant disadvantage in an environment that demands greater reuse and loose coupling in an environment of heterogeneity and continuous change."

Maybe this is the root issue of why IT allegedly resists SOA. IBM's Bowen urges a collaborative teamwork approach to SOA to alleviate fears. "A lot of discussions early on when you're putting our governance in place is to say, okay, your job is not going away. It may change, but it's not going to away. That is not the intent of SOA. It's not intended to downsize your IT shops. It's intended to make your business more productive."

Ron Schmelzer urges a proactive approach to urging developers to grow their architectural skills. "There's a dramatic and significant lack of architecture talent and skills," Schmelzer said. "So, while development skills may experience a long-term decline in demand, architecture skills will experience a long-term heightened demand."

Since the goal of SOA is to automate and industrialize software development, it's likely that many development jobs will be shifted. But, as with all previous automation and industrialization shifts, it means greater opportunities in new ways. (I outlined seven areas of opportunity in this post a few months back.)

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