SOA architects must be as much evangelists and consensus-builders as technologists

SOA demands skilled people who are inspirational IT and business leaders with technical acumen and deep experience in the vertical business issues. It seems high-level developers may fit the bill as well as anyone.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor

Now that Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is percolating up inside enterprises -- sometimes as a set of strategic initiatives, but more often as discrete pilot projects -- the human resources needs are surfacing along with it. If you've got the right stuff, the budding role of SOA architect could be a rocket for your career.
A large part of the conceptual definition of SOA requires groups, departments and individuals that used to do their own thing to now do a new collaborative thing. And that new thing often needs to be broadly organized, managed-governed -- so the whole amounts to more than the sum of the disjointed parts.
Into this cultural and political shift toward more cooperation, improvement, sharing and "playing nice," the coalescing definition of the SOA architect must emerge. Whereas IT architects often set broad and rather dictatorial edicts on what products and technologies may be used -- and then enforce the purity of the data center against those edicts -- the SOA architect has a much different role to play, based on early attempts to define the job.
Now, I'm sure this never happens at your company, but I've heard stories of software engineers, systems administrators, IT managers, data center operators, developers -- and even users -- who will nod their bobble-heads at new, feel-good initiatives like SOA (as it may appear to some). But then, in their actual work habits, they'll just go right on doing what they like most, find familiar and have always done, usually without much focus on the other groups around them. I know it sounds ludicrous that people would behave this way, but it does actually happen.
And so in order to make significant changes in how people work, and use and extend technology, a great deal of selling and cajoling must be done -- for a long time, with constant pressure. That's change management on the human scale. A great deal of will power and leadership charisma will be required to make inroads toward SOA benefits.
This means that the architects of SOA must be as much evangelists and consensus-builders as technologists. They must be trusted and absolutely respected. Pointy-haired bosses ala Dilbert need not apply.

SOA architects must also balance short-term business outcomes with longer-term objectives aimed at maintaining quality and maximizing IT value. Too often architecture has been focused on discrete initiatives or infrastructure projects, such as server architecture or network architecture, rather than the broader IT perspective.

There also needs to be some standardization around methodology so that SOA architects act with common approaches. Otherwise, SOAs will lack interoperability outside the company walls, foiling extended-enterprise initiatives and nifty benefits like supply chain and distribution network efficiencies and automation.

Given this rather demanding job description, several standards groups and consortiums (and some vendors, too) are beginning to build structure around the evolving definition of SOA architect. You can get Oracle-certified, you can get Microsoft-certified and IBM-certified. Where do you go to become SOA architect-certified?
You won't find them trained in the universities. I've talked to lots of people who say, "Yeah, we look at the computer science graduates coming up, but how many of these people really have had any training or courses whatsoever on broad architectural subjects like SOA?"
Here are places to look for understanding of the concept of SOA architect, and where certification and/or training resources can be found:

  •  The SOA Consortium was formed in February as a new advocacy group of end users, service providers and IT vendors to help the Global 1000 to adopt SOA.
  •  The Open Group in January unveiled an accredited professional association for Enterprise Architects to augment its certification programs around The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and the IT Architect Certification (ITAC) program.
  •  The Open SOA Collaboration group is defining a language-neutral programming model for enterprise developers based around Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO), and offers many resources.

SOA demands skilled people who are inspirational IT and business leaders with technical acumen and deep experience in the vertical business issues. It seems high-level developers may fit the bill as well as anyone.

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