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SOA=ERP but worse: fair analogy?

Many CIOs and IT managers are still smarting from the pain of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system rollouts -- multi-million-dollar megaprojects that required tearing up processes across the enterprise in an effort to automate.  Some have been outright disasters, and many others have simply been money pits.

Many CIOs and IT managers are still smarting from the pain of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system rollouts -- multi-million-dollar megaprojects that required tearing up processes across the enterprise in an effort to automate.  Some have been outright disasters, and many others have simply been money pits.

Jeff Schneider of Momentum knows how to cut to the chase -- making his postings very lucid and thought-provoking.  In his latest blog posting, he warns that SOA will bring more pain and suffering than ERP.

Schneider writes that he scared the bejeezus out of a CIO when he pointed out that an enterprise SOA roll-out will be significantly larger than an ERP implementation. "SOA is a complete overhaul impacting how systems are analyzed, designed, built, integrated and managed. And not just some systems - all systems including packaged applications like ERP."

Not a trivial task, he points out. "SOA requires a rethinking of your infrastructure, development methodology, business impact analysis, budgeting process, organizational design... Don't underestimate the value it provides, the competitive advantage one can assume AND the investment it will take!"

Fair enough. But the beauty of SOA is that it can be brought along in an incremental fashion. As older systems are retired, for example, they can be replaced with standardized components made available to the enterprise, perhaps from the CIO's office. You can have a new EDI system supported by standardized Web services functioning right alongside a big honking ERP system running on AS/400 that has not been upgraded.

Schneider says yes, the incremental approach works, but don't expect a lot of payback. "You can take a slow and steady approach to SOA but be prepared to receive gains that are even slower. Remember - this is really about the 'network effect'."

Will slow and steady win the race?  Or are we in for the mother of all megaprojects, with "death marches" and squashed careers ahead?