SOA 2007: The March to Governance

2006 was a turning point for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), the year when the hype became reality. Multiple companies brought SOA to production, but they faced challenges in doing so.

They found that SOA was hard, and that the difficulties went beyond technology. Governance presents a major challenge, and for many this was the top challenge. This article is a condensed version of Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research published in July 2007 that explores the reasons why governance is a key success factor in SOA rollouts.


Throughout 2006, EMA published a series of research papers documenting the progress of SOA in the real-world of IT. The final paper in the series, SOA: A View from the Trenches , featured in-depth case studies of companies that had reaped significant benefits from deploying business services over an SOA. When asked what advice they had for other companies, all cited planning and governance as a key challenge and four-out-of-five cited governance as the top challenge.

This finding was unexpected, as most of the press on SOA to date has focused on SOA’s technical challenges. However, after talking with these early adopters, it became clear that SOA’s success or failure may actually have more to do with cross-organizational and business-related factors, both of which are elements of governance.

Governance Drivers

Governance has taken center stage over the past few years and this is not a coincidence. Industry awareness of governance and best-practices has grown, with most organizations familiar with disciplines such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT). This familiarity has been driven by an industry seeking answers.

It isn’t any secret that 70-to-80 percent of most IT budgets go toward maintenance and administration, leaving only 20-to-30 percent for growth and innovation. One of the primary reasons is complexity. As the industry migrates from mainframes and thin-clients to tiered, Web-centric applications, the number of applications, devices, and platforms managed by the average IT organization is skyrocketing. These days, it is not uncommon to find IT organizations supporting 1000 or more different business applications.

This shift has taken its toll on IT personnel and budgets. In many cases, it has also taken a toll on the relationship between IT and the business. With business often blissfully unaware of the net effect of this technology shift, IT is often viewed as a money pit.

As a result, IT organizations are finding themselves on the losing end of a no-win proposition. As the business evolves, it requires new business applications. Development provides them, then hands deployment and support over to IT. IT is the last stop on the application railroad, with one route in and no route out.

As this scenario plays out, IT has turned to governance in desperation. With very little control over the volume and complexity of the applications they support, IT is investing in best practices to improve efficiency.

SOA Governance

SOA governance applies best-practices and SOA-specific management technologies to the same problem: the need to control and manage complexity. Good governance is an antidote for complexity.