SOA and GCM (Governance and Compliance)

I just listened to the latest Briefings Direct: SOA Insights podcast from Dana Gardner and friends. In this edition, the bulk of the time was spent discussing the relationship between SOA Governance and tools in the Governance and Compliance market (GCM).

I found this discussion very interesting, even if they didn’t make too many connections to the products classifying themselves as “SOA Governance” solutions. That’s not surprising though, because there’s no doubt that the marketers jumped all over the term governance in an effort to increase sales. Truth be told, there is a long, long way to go in connecting the two sets of technologies.

I’m not all that familiar with the GCM space, but the discussion did help to educate me. The GCM space is focused on corporate governance, clearly targeting the Sarbanes-Oxley space. There is no doubt that many, many dollars are spent within organizations in staying compliant with local, state, and federal (or your area’s equivalent) regulations. Executives are required to sign off that appropriate controls are in place. I’ve had experience in the financial services industry, and there’s no shortage of regulations that deal with handling investor’s assets, and no shortage of lawsuits when someone feels that their investment intent has not been followed. Corporate governance doesn’t end there, however. In addition to the external regulations, there are also the internal principles of the organization that govern how the company utilizes its resources. Controls must be put in place to provide documented assurances that resources are being used in the way they were intended. This frequently takes the form of someone reviewing some report or request for approval and signing their name on the dotted line. For these scenarios, there’s a natural relationship between analytics, business intelligence, and data warehouse products, and the GCM space appears to have ties to this area.

So where does SOA governance fit into this space? Clearly, the tools that are claiming to be players in the governance space don’t have strong ties to corporate governance. While automated checking of a WSDL file for WS-I adherence is a good thing, I don’t think it’s something that will need to show up in a SOX report anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of what these tools can offer but be cautious in thinking that the governance they claim has strong ties to your corporate governance. Even if we look at the financial aspect of projects, the tools still have a long way to go. Where do most organizations get the financial information? Probably from their project management and time accounting system. Is there integration between these tools, your source code management system, and your registry/repository? I know that BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Repository (Flashline) had the ability to track asset development costs and asset integration costs to provide an ROI for individual assets, but where do these cost numbers come from? Are they manually entered, or are they pulled directly from the systems of record?

Ultimately, the relationship between SOA Governance and Corporate Governance will come down to data. In a couple recent posts, I discussed the challenges that organizations may face with the metadata associated with SOA, as well as the management continuum. This is where these two worlds come together. I mentioned earlier that a lot of corporate governance is associated with the right people reviewing and signing off on reports. A challenge with systems of the past is their monolithic nature. Are we able to collect the right data from these systems to properly maintain appropriate controls? Clearly, SOA should break down these monoliths and increase the visibility into the technology component of the business processes. The management architecture must allow metrics and other metadata to be collected, analyzed, and reported to allow the controllers to make better decisions.

One final comment that I didn’t want to get lost. Neil Macehiter brought up Identity Management a couple times in the discussion, and I want to do my part to ensure it isn’t forgotten. I’ve mentioned “signoff” a couple times in this entry. Obviously, signoff requires identity. Where compliance checks are supported by a service-enabled GCM product, having identity on those service calls is critical. One of the things the controller needs to see is who did what. If I’m relying on metadata from my IT infrastructure to provide this information, I need to ensure that the appropriate identity stays with those activities. While there’s no shortage of rants against WS-*, we clearly will need a transport-independent way of sharing identity as it flows through the various technology components of tomorrow’s solutions.

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