Are SOAs being launched to actually help the business, or to improve the productivity of technology departments? The ultimate goal is about the business, of course, but that's awfully difficult to measure as of yet. It seems most SOA efforts these days are in pursuit of something more tangible and measurable, that is, IT productivity. x hours of developers' time is saved by using standardized service components and interfaces.
Recently, I talked about the SOA implementation at Ameriprise Financial, which measured savings of at least $10 million from service reuse. Business benefits were a bit more squishy, but Ameriprise was measuring results against some "what-if" analysis to determine the course and costs of a non-SOA route taken. Business benefits may be squishy to measure, but its what companies want from SOA
Yet, a new survey of 313 enterprises conducted by ebizQ finds that business -- not IT -- goals are driving most SOA implementations these days.
Almost two out of respondents, 64 percent, said that the goal of their SOA effort is to "increase business agility," followed by "IT reuse" at 57 percent. "Business process optimization" followed with 55 percent, and another 44 percent sought the advantages of composite application development.(I posted a blog on the findings here at ebizQ.)
Are these organizations thinking long term? Beth Gold-Bernstein, who conducted the survey and presented the results, was just as surprised as I was by this finding.
To test the strength of this business commitment, Beth grouped the business-related responses together and contrasted that group against the more IT-focused responses. "When we looked at what the most popular combinations were, they were increased business agility and IT use, increased business agility and business process optimization," she explained. "That led us to the conclusion that SOA adoption is really business driven, it is not just for reducing IT costs. SOA is more of a business initiative than an IT initiative."
This has interesting implications, since the ultimate goal of SOA is to reach across and support the entire enterprise, with IT being one of many players in its design and success.
Of course, a big part of SOA success -- especially around the reuse value equation -- comes from governance, or the ability to have a well-managed, tightly focused process for creating, discovering, and launching services. At this point, the survey found, most organizations are not satisfied with the governance solutions they current have -- about 17 percent say their governance is sufficient, another 40 percent say it is not sufficient.
That's because most governance enforcement is manual. Beth observed that in cases where automation is introduced to facilitate governance -- especially runtime governance -- the picture changes. Those sites that have runtime and design-time automation are far more likely to report high levels of comfort with their governance solution than those who rely on manual enforcement.
"Those that have runtime automation have an automated solution that is managing governance policies whenever these services are being accessed and run have far higher levels of confidence." She added that "while design-time automation is good, runtime automation is going to be absolutely essential as organizations move down the path to SOA."