Is the US Constitution a good model for SOA governance?

The constitution's separation of powers may be the right fit for large organizations implementing SOA-based solutions

Separation of powers keeps governmental bodies in check and balanced -- the ideal model for governing SOA efforts. That's the concept put forth by Skip Snow, senior vice president and chief SOA architect for Citigroup, which has one of the largest technology shops in the world.

Snow was one of the kick-off speakers at yesterday's well-attended Web Services/SOA on Wall Street event in New York, which presented the strategies and SOA progress at the world's leading financial services houses. Skip Snow, Citigroup

Overseeing SOA at Snow's Citigroup, with 300,000-plus employees and more than $1 billion in revenues every 11 days, would be just too onerous and overwhelming for one governance committee, or even series of committees -- just as it would be impossible and dangerous to manage a nation of 300 million citizens with a single government entity.  

Instead, Snow explained, Citigroup’s SOA governance structure is federated in nature, with a "separation of powers" similar to the way the US federal government is structured.

  • An “executive branch” (IT) oversees operational aspects, as well as development and design;
  • A “legislative branch” (executive management and board of directors) establishes the goals and directions of SOA efforts; and
  • A “judicial branch” (enterprise architectural boards) deals with conflict resolution and compliance audits.

In addition, Snow added, Citigroup's SOA initiatives are divided along a separation of powers between the federal (enterprise) level, state (divisional) level, county (line of business), and municipal (departmental) level.

In the Articles of Confederation which formed the foundation of the Constitution, the nation's founding fathers were adamant that individual states retain their individual sovereignty and freedom. The US federal system is based on 50 "loosely coupled" jurisdictions, if you will.

Likewise, in a large organization such as Citigroup, individual departments and business units wanted to be free to pursue their own SOA business strategies, Snow said. "Our departments and sectors want to govern in a way that is autonomous; there is no 'one size fits all for SOA governance. 'One size fits all' would not be a good starting place for SOA in our enterprise."

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