SOA, ITIL and the Strategic CIO

When a service developed using funding from Installment Loans becomes available to the Commercial Loans group, for example, how does Commercial Loans reimburse the other department for its “portion” of the service? When five or six departments are using the service to the point where performance degrades, who pays for the additional server horsepower? Who keeps track of who is using the service, and who controls security access? And when the service needs to be changed, who funds the change, and even more importantly, who else will the change affect?

Once an organization realizes that SOA is more than the sum of its technology parts, investments in ITIL and other best practices become no-brainers. ITIL adoption can well be considered to be a foundation for successful SOA adoption. Without disciplined processes in place across IT, the added challenges of cross business coordination becomes a weighty load that, over time, adds resource requirements to an already over burdened IT organization. And without disciplined channels and processes in place, the cross business strategy changes that are necessary for “successful SOA” cannot be effectively carried out.

Decreased Risk

For companies successful in deploying applications using SOA, one of the big benefits can be a reduction in risk. If most software projects fail—and research shows that most do fall short in some way—the risk is greater as the size of the project grows. Watts S. Humphrey from The Software Engineering Institute found, in a study of software project success, that while half of the smallest software projects succeeded, none of the largest projects did. Other research agrees with his assessment, and this is one way in which SOA can contribute to an organization’s long term business success.

SOA, by its nature, is a modular architecture. When an “application” is developed in a modular fashion, the product is a series of small modules rather than one huge one. The rise of agile development methodologies over the last few years support this modular approach, and, combined with a service-based architecture, can materially improve the quality and success rate of application deployments going forward.

The Strategic CIO

There are multiple ways that IT executives can significantly improve an organization’s chances for successful SOA initiatives.

A few are summarized below:

Evangelize – Many of the most successful SOA adopters started their SOA projects at the executive level. They did their research to find out specifics about reuse, loose coupling, and modularity: three of the major ways that SOA adds business value.

They then socialized SOA and its possibilities with executives across the business. These “SOA evangelists” set expectations with the business that reflected SOA’s realities, and prepared the business for potential challenges and payoffs. They found that these activities helped to build links between IT and the business and brought non-IT executives into the loop regarding the ways in which SOA could potentially impact their departments and provide value to the business.

Be Clear – A major benefit of SOA is business agility. There is a reason why the financial services industry is one of the big SOA adopters and that is because regulatory and compliance requirements change on a dime. Such initiatives take the need for business agility to a new level, and it is unlikely that these companies could remain in compliance without the agility that SOA has made possible for them.

Executives within these companies, in close touch with the requirements of the business, guided IT to find ways to address constant change. Companies requiring less agility may be well advised to avoid SOA altogether—SOA is definitely not for everyone. However, if the goals of the business reflect requirements to adapt more flexibly to change, to develop IT-based services that differentiate them from competitors, and/or to decrease the cost and risk of software deployment, SOA can be a good option.