SOA, ITIL and the Strategic CIO

Set Expectations – We consistently hear that, in its initial stages, SOA is a money pit. It costs money to change a software architecture, to adapt existing applications to a more modular deployment methodology, to train developers to write to SOA and IT organizations to support it. Reinventing cross departmental funding and governance processes requires additional time from IT as well as non-IT executives.

This is reality, but one way to deal with it is to let the business know ahead of time that it shouldn’t expect instant cost savings. As reuse starts to kick in, as software development becomes more predictable, and as governance brings order to the chaos, the business can expect to see all the benefits that have been touted. However, it will take time for those benefits to materialize.

Be Realistic – If your organization has a history of software project failures and nothing has changed, it’s likely that your SOA project will fail as well. SOA requires strong technical capabilities, well orchestrated project management, executive support, and strong cross business processes. Lack of one or more of these capabilities will dramatically limit chances of success.

SOA is best tackled by mature IT organizations, as defined by organizational maturity models such as the one described in the Control Objectives for IT (COBIT) best practice library. If you are unsure about the maturity level of your organization, check it out at Maturity requires well-developed, repeatable processes, cross organizational communication, and above average ability to leverage automation to manage technology. From the SOA perspective, it also requires business need.

As the place where the buck stops, the CIO is, in the end, responsible for judging whether SOA’s benefits outweigh the risks for a specific organization. SOA is certainly not for the faint of heart. If approached strategically and realistically, however, it strengthens ties between IT and the business and strengthens IT’s ability to deliver services cost effectively and with high levels of discipline and consistency.

Julie Craig is a senior analyst with Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates (, an industry research firm focused on IT management. Julie can reached at [email protected].