Archive for the ‘InfoWorld’ Category
Since Dave was nice enough to give me another shout out in his podcast this week, I thought I’d follow up in my blog. I thought he did a much better job in discussing my post when he said that these new breeds of applications and services that are available on demand are (my words) another tool in the toolbox of the enterprise architect. There’s no doubt that there are potential cost benefits to these platforms, and a review of them should be something you consider as your architecture evolves. Just remember, however, that they don’t define your architecture any more than any product installed on site defines your architecture. They only define your architecture if you let them, and that’s a bad situation. Rather, define your architecture, and choose the solutions that best fit your needs, whether it is building it in house, buying an off the shelf product to install on site, or going with a web-based provider. Don’t focus on functionality alone. Make sure that it aligns with your management needs and your information needs as best you know their future direction. You need to be in control, not at the control of your vendors.
I finally decided to post regarding the Nucleus Research/KnowledgeStorm study that many of the SOA bloggers have been commenting about. In the InfoWorld article by Paul Krill, David O’Connell, senior analyst at Nucleus, is quoted as saying, “Only a minority of companies are getting a return on investment of SOA.”
Like many others, I don’t put a lot of faith in anything that tries to associate ROI and SOA. ROI should be addressed at the business initiative level, i.e. something with quantifiable business benefit. Opening up a new store location has quantifiable business benefits. The elimination of certain paperwork associated with an employee hiring process can have quantifiable business benefits. SOA isn’t a project, but rather it’s a way of approaching the technical solutions within a project. I can apply the principles of SOA to the automation of employee hiring processes. I can apply the principles of SOA to the technology pieces associated with opening a new store.
If we want to narrow the discussion to something more closer to where SOA can have an impact, we can look at development costs. As has been stated by others, however, this really only deals with the area of reuse. How do you capture the ability of IT to work closely with the business and save time on analysis because of the better mutual understanding of how technology and business come together? It should be reflected in lower development costs/quicker time to market. At this level, however, things get fuzzy. Ultimately, however, the more important point is whether or not business value is being produced. The development cost of the technology is just one piece of the puzzle in implementing a business solution. IT should always be striving to improve itself and continue to bring those costs down. Do you even know what these costs are? Are you collecting metrics about your development processes to know whether things are getting better or worse? Even if you want to attach ROI to SOA, if you don’t have the before and after numbers, all you’re getting is someone’s gut feeling.
This entry isn’t meant to say that we should simply ignore ROI and just do SOA because it’s the right thing to do. That sort of blind adoption can be just as damaging as not doing anything. The point is that discussions around ROI at the executive level should be about business benefits. You can’t just define and run an SOA project. You run business projects, and apply SOA within it. The ROI for the executives is based upon the ROI of the business project, of which SOA is just one piece.
I recently “teamed up” with Phil Windley. He interviewed me for his latest InfoWorld article on SOA Governance which is now available online, and is in the March 5th print issue. Give it a read and let me know what you think. I think Phil did a great job in articulating a lot of the governance challenges that organizations run into. Of the areas where I was quoted, the one that I think is a significant culture change is the funding challenge. It’s not just about getting funding for shared services which is a challenge on its own. It’s also a challenge of changing the way that organizations make decisions to include architectural elements in the decision. Many organizations that I have dealt with all tend to be schedule driven. That is, the least flexible element of the project is schedule. Conversely, the thing that always gives is scope. Unfortunately, it’s not usually visible scope, it’s usually the difference in taking the quickest path (tactical) versus the best path (strategic). If you’re one of many organizations trying to do grass roots SOA, this type of IT governance makes life very difficult as the culture rewards schedule success, not architectural success. It’s a big culture shift. Does your Chief Architect have a seat at the IT Governance table?
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the article. Feel free to post your questions here, and I’d be happy to followup.