The 5 stages of service orientation, revisited

From 'Just a Bunch of Platforms' to 'Muscle Memory' -- the progression of building a service-oriented culture.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

I just ran my five-point service orientation maturity chart over at Insurance Networking News, and thought it would be helpful to report it here again as well, since folks in all industries are at some stage in the process.

The last time I ran this was back in 2008, so it begs the question of whether things have changed as companies seek greater service orientation. The answer is yes, there has been a major sea change, and that is the rise of cloud computing in all its forms -- private, hybrid and public. Originally, the goal was building a service oriented architecture approach by surfacing vital components as sharable, cross-enterprise services.  Now, we also look at the mechanisms for offering those services through a "cloud" context, and are looking well beyond enterprise boundaries as well.

Here are the five stages of growth:  (Credit to Jeff Schneider of Momentum SI for helping to flesh out the scale.)

Level 1: JBOPs (Just a Bunch of Platforms)

The organization is heavily siloed, with a lot of systems and disconnected applications dotting the enterprise. There may be instances of upper-level managers reading and hearing about cloud services, Web services and SOA, and run into the next meeting and demanding action, but not putting any political weight or support behind the demands. In the meantime, it's likely folks deep in the trenches have been creating and consuming services within their own silos, but the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

Level 2: JBOWS or JBOCS (Just a Bunch of Web Services; Just a Bunch of Cloud Services)

This may be the level where many organizations are today. Here, there is awareness that various functions and processes can be service-oriented, and there may be plenty of services deployed in different places around the enterprise. Still, most are in silos, and there is no specific oversight or attempt to get an enterprise view on how these services can be shared or interoperate.

Level 3: JBOGS (Just a Bunch of Governed Services)

Decision-makers in the enterprise begin to get their arms around the architectural aspect that is needed to make Web and cloud services more valuable to the business. There is recognition that the services IT or another department is creating and publishing are of potential value to other business units on a shared basis. The company may invest in tools and platforms, such as registry/repositories and testing tools. Still, much of this activity may be confined to the forward thinkers and innovators, not the mainstream business.

Level 4: POPS (Patches of Planned Services)

Business executives start working more closely with IT professionals and architects, and support efforts to increase awareness and availability of shared services across the enterprise. Business unit leaders look to corporate-level services first when considering solutions to business problems. Services are “hot-swappable,” and readily discoverable through online repositories, or even through corporate app stores. You may even be providing cloud services to other companies.

Level 5: Second-Nature Service Orientation

As mentioned above, there is no “there” there in the advance to service orientation. Only a journey that involves learning and moving the business forward. Ultimately, the goal, as Miko Matsumura, author of SOA Adoption for Dummies, once put it, is to bake service orientation into your organization's "muscle memory."  The ultimate success point of service orientation is when organizations no longer really even think about doing it -- it's just second nature. "It's just how you do business… like a championship sports team, in which everybody knows the playbook in their muscle memory," he says.  Cloud built on SOA may be just a natural part of doing business, and everyone worries about how they do business -- not the systems underneath or out in the cloud.

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