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Survey: one out of four SOA projects disappoint

Twenty-four percent say SOA has fallen short of expectations; seven percent say it has exceeded expectations. What about the other 69%?
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

A survey just released by InformationWeek confirms what we've already known for some time: that building SOA "is harder and takes more time and money than expected."  (At least more time and money than what the vendors led us to expect.)

24% say SOA has fallen short of expectations; 7% say it has exceeded expectations. What about the other 69%?

The survey of 273 business and technology professionals found 73% in the midst of Web services or SOA projects. Among this group, 24% say their projects "fell short of expectations." Of those, InformationWeek said, 55% say SOA projects introduced more complexity into their IT environments, and 41% say they cost more than expected.

A measley seven percent said "results exceeded expectations" within their SOA projects. I'd love to know what that satisfied seven percent were expecting from their SOA deployments. Probably meeting very focused, specific project thresholds.

That also means about 69%, of course, are still undecided about the outcomes of their efforts. Which way will they lean a year from now? What are their expectations? Do enterprises know what to expect?

No one is giving up on SOA, the survey finds. Two out of three of the companies currently engaged in SOA expect their spending on it to increase over the coming year. 

The survey says that nearly half (45%) of survey respondents rate SOA projects as "very important to their companies' business goals." However, what are these business goals? Ultimately, most expect to see more efficiencies gained within their IT departments -- 72% expect "increase efficiency with application development efforts," 61% hope to increase the speed of their SOA application development, and 58% want greater "software modularity."

We don't see a business goal for SOA on the list until "better integration with business partners" at 55%. Another 40% say they hope SOA will enable their companies to deliver products faster.

Pete Conner, CTO of Primitive Logic, a Web services consulting firm, is quoted in the article, and his analysis may have hit the nail on the head: Where are the business drivers? SOA, like any other cross-enterprise project, requires strong governance over both IT and business objectives. At companies whose SOA projects fall short of expectations, "I would bet some major money they didn't sit down at the table and look at the business side."

There are conflicting forces at work here. On one hand, projects will see greater success if started small and incrementally, with quick wins. The risks are lower, but small wins such as streamlining a purchase order process or reducing manual data entry will be below the business radar. SOA will take time to build critical mass within organizations to the point where gains do become more visible to the business. But it's still early in the game, and the initial gains will probably be seen siloed within improved IT or other operations.

And surveys will continue to show disappointment or lack of tangible business benefits.

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