SOA and The Third Conversation

The third conversation, however, thinks about service creation as a set of model-driven, declarative operations that take place above the service abstraction: They don’t deal with the code-centric issues of the IT perspective, while still providing services by leveraging IT capabilities.

Learning to Speak SO

Today’s service-oriented architect is part evangelist, part visionary, part therapist, part coach, and part taskmaster. Among all these duties the SO architect has, let’s add one more: language teacher. It is this architect who must work with both audiences to explain the new vocabulary of service orientation, and with it the new way of thinking about the relationship between business and IT.

The good news is, you architects out there don’t have to worry about teaching technology to a business audience or teaching business to a technology audience anymore. Those of you who have tried either of those Sisyphean endeavors know how often they amount to rolling a stone up a mountain.

Instead, leverage your organization’s progress with SOA to craft a new language for your organization, one that both constituencies can master. True, the third conversation will seem technical to the suits and “high-level” (read: business-centric) to the geeks. But rest assured this new conversation is the key to successfully aligning the two camps.

Even though the goal still eludes us, we’ve definitely made a certain measure of progress aligning business and IT via previous efforts over the years. In fact, the entire vision of eBusiness in the 1990s was one of improved alignment. And while there’s no question that the vision of eBusiness was successful in many ways—when was the last time you traded a stock or bought a plane ticket without using the Internet?—true alignment remains largely out of reach, in large part due to the human communication issues discussed above.

Just as eBusiness had only limited success in achieving true business/IT alignment, SOA will only have limited success as well unless both sides of the cubicle wall learn to speak the third conversation. It is only by learning to speak this third conversation that business and IT can finally come into alignment.

The reason this goal has been so firmly out of reach up to this point is that people assumed the only way to achieve it was to either teach business people to speak tech, or to teach the techies to speak business, but history has shown that such a goal is basically unrealistic.

And yet, I propose that it is possible, and possibly even likely, that both business and IT people can learn to speak the third conversation. Only then will they truly be able to move forward in alignment, and only then will SOA live up to its potential.

Jason Bloomberg is senior analyst at SOA and Enterprise Web 2.0 advisory firm ZapThink. ZapThink trains and credentials SOA architects through their highly respected Licensed ZapThink Architect program. You can reach Jason Bloomberg at [email protected].