Service Orientation: reflections on its slow expansion


At the end of 20th century the paradigm of Object Orientation burst in the industry of software development. A key breakthrough that revolutionized the way we analyze and model reality in the design of information systems. With the entry into the 21st century, Service Orientation represents an equally key advance in the development of distributed, interconnected information systems … in the development of efficient, scalable and sustainable information ecosystems.


However, it seems that the industry has not yet found it out, in its depth and importance… but why?. We will try to analyze the possible causes.


Information and Communication Technologies evolve at a speed that is truly difficult to follow. ICT professionals live in a permanent “uncertainty principle” such as Heisenberg’s: by the time we get information about the latest technology, methodology, the latest advances in communications, it is already obsolete.


Curiously, every few years we see that a new technology, or a new paradigm, or a new methodology, makes its way with a huge explosion in the ICT market, reaching every corner at an amazing speed.


And what happens with the Service Orientation?. Why is it so difficult to get SOA, with all the benefits it brings, to spread across the world map of ICT in all business sectors?.


Service Orientation brings important benefits to all its actors


It is difficult to understand. With the Service Orientation we all win:

  • the ICT professionals, who leave behind a series of bad practices and recover the best practices of development,
  • companies that provide ICT services, which significantly increase their capacity to bring real value to their customers, and thus improve their image against their competitors,
  • our clients gain a more efficient way of managing their ICT budgets and advancing their business with their system map alligned…


Why is it not seen? Why does it seem that only a few can see it all?.


Obviously in this matter, as in everything, everyone will have their opinion, based on their experience. My opinion is that even though SOA has been with us since the beginning of the century, we have hardly noticed. It’s as if a UFO had landed and no one would have noticed, nor would have come to meet them and make contact. And those who have realized, are halfway between impacted by their transcendence, trying to make the world aware, and surprised that no one seems to care.


The Service Orientation and the lack of support from the sector.

Looking for the reasons, the first thing that comes to my mind is that behind every new technology, behind every new advance, there is a strong company or a consortium of strong companies pushing its expansion. With the Service Orientation, however, there has been no such thing. And what’s worse, for years there has been a tremendous confusion about its very definition.


In recent years, efforts have been redoubled in the industry, as you can see if you look for the network. Corporations and standardization bodies such as Object Management Group, OpenGroup, OASIS, etc. are developing reference models around SOA, BPM, EDA, Information Ecosystems, etc., etc.


But even so, the “market” push is still missing, there does not seem to be a penetration capacity in the companies of the sector, nor in the universities (we will return to this point later). It seems that if one of the “big” (less and less numerous when buying each other) does not push the market towards the Service Orientation, we will continue talking about this as that background music, that musical thread that maybe someone hums without realizing it, but that goes unnoticed.


The Service Orientation and ICT companies.

To this panorama, there are two issues in my opinion.


On the one hand is the fact that the bigger a company is, and therefore the more influence it has in the business fabric of many countries, the slower it shows itself to adapt to new scenarios, to adopt new patterns of consulting, marketing and development.


That’s why most “specialist” companies in Service Orientation are medium-sized and small companies.


The Service Orientation against resistance to change.

On the other hand is the natural and human resistance to change. Because our particular trident formed by BPM, SOA and EDA represent a major change in how we understand the development of an organization’s systems map, in how to relate business to technology, in how to get along with business experts and experts In technology.


It also means overcoming many “quarrels” between the two “sides”, over who rules who. It involves putting together the best experts from both worlds, forming a Center of Excellence, SOA Office, Office of Governance, or whatever we want to call it, and giving that forum the responsibility to decide the road map of the entire ICT strategy of the organization.


In this forum business experts have to learn that you can not pretend to develop an information system by asking for screens and reports, regardless of the rest of the business or the technological implications that will have what they are asking for, nor how many business areas need exactly what they are demanding, nor the costs that will flow from what they are demanding.


And technology experts have to learn that the only way to make the business really boosted and improved by technology is by getting to know it. They have to realize that technology has become a ballast for many companies and organizations, a major waste of economic resources, which feeds a very negative spiral where the capacity of evolution and adaptation of the business is seriously diminished.


However, many professionals in the ICT sector itself, who should lead the change towards the goal of providing the best solutions to their clients, do not know or do not understand everything that the Service Orientation entails as an ICT strategy. And if the ICT professionals themselves, their managers and partners, do not assimilate, they will never be able to “sell” it and we will hardly see an expansion in every industrial sector throughout the world.


SOA requires a combination of three key skills: business vision, analytics, and object-orientation


In order for ICT professionals to assimilate all this way of focusing the integration of the information systems of our clients, there must be some circumstances that do not always happen, or not always to the same extent:

– usually, without solid Object Orientation concepts, many of the concepts and continuous abstractions that we handle in SOA are not fully understood.

– it also requires a sufficiently developed analytical capacity, allowing us to see the same subject from different angles quickly. This helps to quickly understand the pros it brings against the cons with those we have traditionally lived with.

– the higher our professional profile is, the more it becomes necessary to have an advanced business vision capability, which allows us to see and understand (and discover) the overwhelming potential that Service Orientation has in order to generate projects, to generate progress, to generate solutions, to generate employment, and to generate business.


The Service Orientation in the University.

Which leads me to immediately look at the University.


The SOA strategy encompasses concepts, techniques and capabilities that should be taught in universities


Of all the places where I would like to “evangelize” the benefits of SOA as an ICT strategy, the first place would undoubtedly be in the University. They should be teaching all of these concepts in their study plans: BPM, EDA, SOA, CEP, BI, BRMS, BAM, ESB, etc, etc … It would be a great advance to get the new generations of ICT professionals, who in ten or fifteen years will be the work team leaders, project managers, or preparing offers for potential clients, leave the University with all these concepts tattooed in their brain.


I would like to emphasize this, because we are accustomed to the “fashions” in the ICT, lasting a few years, until they are ousted … but one of the advantages of not being a technology is that it is not a “fashion”: SOA is here to stay … you’ll see.


Affecting the new generations, does not mean that the current generation of professionals is considered a “lost case”, but it is true that while we are getting the sector to awaken to the knowledge of the Service Orientation, the new sap injected from Universities to the labor market must arrive already prepared so that all these concepts would be seen as something much more natural.


Because it is in fact natural, it is very common sense, and should be simple to do, even obvious.


What do you think?


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