The implementation of an SOA strategy
Implementing an SOA strategy is an extremely complex challenge. It requires a broad spectrum of profiles aligned with the strategy, important coordination skills, planning and follow-up efforts, profound changes in the culture and focus of functional experts and positions of responsibility in IT, high teaching capacity, abstraction ability, long-term vision, leadership, constancy, and plenty of patience. Many times we will have to give our goals up in the short term to move forward, to stop acting on a particular front to concentrate efforts on another and to resume that in a more propitious future.
And how do we measure success in implementing an SOA strategy? How will we know if we have succeeded or not? To begin with, perhaps it is best to agree on what we consider “success” in this matter.
Possibly in a future entry we will see more in detail this subject, but here I consider opportune to present you this table (published in this interesting article). This is one of several (and similar) proposals that can be found by the network of the maturity model of an enterprise SOA strategy.
As you can see it presents five maturity leves, from “initial” to “optimized”. And for each level, it proposes a kind of diagnosis of the situation of the organization in different factors: SOA vision, benefits and metrics, business participation, methodology, source of services, and governance.
This table presents a model that seems quite correct from a theoretical point of view, but in practice, when implementing an SOA strategy, it is not realistic to think of such clearly defined levels. And it is not realistic from two points of view:
- On the one hand, unless we are in a small, low-complexity organization, it will be impossible for all departments to assimilate and implement the SOA strategy at the same pace. Therefore some areas will be at a certain maturity level and other areas will be in another.
- On the other hand, no department will be 100% on a single level. In “business participation”, each department may be at a certain level but in “methodology” it could be in another, or “governance”, etc.
This reflection on the practical application of the maturity model of an SOA strategy leads me to conclude that to consider an SOA implementation as a success, it is not worth pointing out that the organization reaches the maximum degree of maturity. Simply because it is quite likely that this will never happen.
And then? Is it impossible to achieve success when implementing an SOA strategy? Well, that’s not true either.
What I propose is that we must not forget that SOA is not a destination, it is the journey. The SOA strategy comes to transform the philosophy of the organization when it comes to planning and dimensioning its IT projects. It normalizes and optimizes the systems architecture, establishes a working paradigm that allows to save costs, optimize business processes, recover the control of ICTs through a set of policies and standards established and monitored from the governance group. It improves the quality of the whole system map, provides greater agility to the organization to manage its ICT resources, greater autonomy in the face of technological changes in the industry and against suppliers, better knowledge of business processes by professionals and, in short, a better position in the market and greater competitiveness and efficiency.
From my point of view, starting such a transformation and maintaining it, is already a success.
There is another factor to consider in order to understand that the SOA strategy is a path with no final destination: organizations not only have the challenge of solving internal interoperability in their systems map but also external interoperability with other organizations. This is especially evident in the public sector. It will increasingly be necessary to find processes and information sharing needs in a standard and encapsulated way with other administrations, whether local, regional, national or international. And in those scenarios, it will be necessary to maintain the SOA strategy and above all the governance, but being able to involve management roles of a higher level of responsibility.
In conclusion, we will say that the implementation of an SOA strategy begins, but does not end. From the first moment, throughout the various improvements that its gradual process of implementation is contributing to the organization, the implementation of the SOA strategy is transforming the organization along the different levels of maturity in an unequal way, according to the roadmap that the organization itself is marking implicitly or explicitly, guided by its needs and business objectives. Some departments will mature faster, others will do slower, some improvements will arrive sooner, others will take longer. But in any case, the path taken by the organization to implement an SOA strategy will bring significant improvements that will help it achieve success in your business. And that success will also be the success of the SOA strategy.