SOA strategy and execution is failing in many companies

Feb 25 2008, 00:10 IST
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SummaryHow many times have you heard that service-oriented architecture is the next big thing? It’s particularly fascinating how the perspectives of customers and vendors evolve on ‘the latest thing’ and where they find the value.

How many times have you heard that service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the next big thing? It’s particularly fascinating how the perspectives of customers and vendors evolve on ‘the latest thing’ and where they find the value. The SOA wars have been interesting to watch for exactly this reason. Integration vendors, pure-play business process management (BPM) vendors and leading application platforms all have an SOA story. The major vendors have focused education efforts on teaching people what SOA is, and how it can make their infrastructures more ‘agile’. And while attendance in forums on the topic is still high, SOA strategy and execution is failing in many companies.

Take, for example, a recent Forrester Research Survey that found 38% of companies with more than 1,000 employees are not using SOA and have no plans to do so. Of the companies that are using SOA in some form or fashion, 40% haven’t begun or are using SOA with no clear strategy in place. The 80/20 rules seem to imply that 80% of people don’t and won’t get SOA in the organisation.

One key reason is that the SOA value proposition is fundamentally unimportant to business people. It’s just another way to implement an application. What’s more important to business managers is how they can change, through technology, the way their businesses are run. And that’s where BPM comes in. If the world’s biggest-budgeted software vendors really want to have sponsors in both IT and business units, and keep selling software, they need to elevate the role BPM plays in their suites.

SOA is yet another buzzword— separating the technology haves from the have-nots. A shift is already underway. Gartner first proclaimed that SOA was entering the trough of disillusionment in 2005. While everyone’s hoping it is the trough, SOA is certainly ebbing in terms of expectations. But what’s interesting about the cycle this go around, as opposed to the hype shifts in other technology areas is who’s driving the shift. The shift in budget control post-dot-com is not the only thing that has emboldened business people. The ebb of SOA is a revolt by business people against yet another buzzword invented by IT.

SOA is not like other technologies. Rather SOA’s success as a technology approach is faced with a shift in the fabric of the relationship between business and IT. Organisations that successfully cope with both the technology trend and the cultural shift

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