Politics, business, technology -- in THAT order

Many organizations lack the political will to turn a JBOWS (Just a Bunch of Web Services) architecture into a true SOA.

In earlier posts, I put forth the paradox that those that do SOA probably don't need it. Organizations that intelligently embrace SOA probably would thrive anyway without it, since they are likely to be forward-thinking with many other things as well. Organizations that could really benefit from SOA because their processes and technologies are out of whack will limp along  -- with neither the will, inspiration, nor wherewithal to embrace such a new approach on an enterprise scale.

What many will end up with, ultimately, is a JBOWS architecture, not a full-functioning SOA that can add value to the business on a significant scale.  (Just a Bunch of Web Services.)  

That's not to say there are inspired individuals or groups that are building Web services and open standards in organizations, because there are many. But they need to take their passion a step forward and become evangelists, and sell the service-oriented concept to the business and be able to navigate the politics. Sometimes, it takes more effort to get through the thick skin of corporate management than to build these systems.

Judith Hurwitz, CEO of the Hurwitz Group, in her latest corporate newsletter, says too many SOA attempts are foundering because the technology was brought in before the organization could clearly grasp what it would get out of it.

There are political considerations, business considerations, and then technical considerations. That order is important, Hurwitz says. "Too many organizations start their SOA implementation by selecting an enterprise service bus or by creating Web services interfaces. While these are among the necessary steps – they should not be the first steps."

The political considerations, of course, can kill any project before birth, and SOA depends on cooperation from many fiefdoms. "IT management often sees the purchase of a system or technology as the foundation of political power," Hurwitz points out. "Picking a technology platform that fails often results in the loss of prestige.  Because the implementation of a SOA approach touches so many different disciplines and business units within an organization, the decision making and implementation can take on a life of its own."

Hurwitz advises bringing key constituents from across the enterprise together "to draft a common view of the end goal of SOA are in a much stronger position to overcome political wrangling."  In addition, Hurwitz advises addressing the most fundamental questions about the business itself. Ask: "What business are you in? What are the foundation components of that business? What parts of your business that are customer facing?  It is imperative to start from the business level and work to the physical IT environment."