Choosing appropriate SOA Governance

I’ll be part of a customer panel in Phil Windley’s SOA Governance session at the upcoming InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum. This event, as well as recent publications on SOA Governance (Phil’s article in the Jan. 23rd print edition of InfoWorld, Jason Bloomberg’s Butterfly Effect ZapFlash), have me thinking more and more about this topic.

One very simple analogy to make regarding SOA Governance is to compare it to traditional government. What does Congress do? What do your local city leaders do? This is actually a very good analogy, because it works for all definitions of SOA Governance, whether applied to strategic planning, design-time governance, or run-time governance. Recently, I’ve started thinking about more intricate details of this analogy. It is certainly true that SOA Governance has to do with setting and enforcing policy, just as does traditional governance. What’s interesting, however, are the types of policies being set and the communication involved in those processes.

A great illustration is my own experience. From mid-1994 to late 1997, I lived in California. During that timeframe, California had ballot initiatives on discrimination in state university admission processes (Proposition 209) and on basic services (i.e. health care) for illegal immigrants (Proposition 187). As part of the voting process, California would provide a sample ballot, as well as statements on the proposed initiatives and candidates. There would typically be a statement for the initiative/canditate along with a rebuttal, as well as a statement against the initiative/candidate along with a rebuttal. I found this to be extremely valuable in my own processes to be an educated voter.

In late 1997, I moved to Missouri. The most highly contested initiative for my first ballot as a Missouri resident was cock fighting restrictions. Missouri politicians are only now beginning to debate things like smoking bans in restaurants. Thankfully, I’ve moved to southern Illinois where we at least have the influence of Chicago on statewide issues to keep things a bit more progressive. Neither state, however, provides anything to help me be an educated voter. I have to rely on my own research, in addition to the normal media.

What this demonstrates is that in addition to figuring out what SOA means to your company, you also need to figure out what SOA Governance means to your company. Should you be progressive about governance and focus on cutting edge concerns, or do you still need to cover the basics? What information do you need to provide as part of the governance process, and how much do you involve the people who will ultimately be governed by the policies being set? Ultimately, success will largely depend on how well your approach to these topics match your corporate culture. If your company is conservative, adopting a progressive stance on governance may be too much shock for the company to take right off the bat. Likewise, A conservative approach on governance may put a halt to the rapid innovation occurring at a progressive company. The same holds true in traditional government. The focus of media attention in the middle east has been on the fact that voting is occurring, rather than on what topics are on the ballot. Simply having a vote for the highest levels of government is enough of a culture change. Anything more would have been a failure.

As with any change, and SOA is most definitely a change, the key is understanding where you want to go, creating a plan to get you there, and then executing that plan. SOA Governance is simply another element to be addressed. Take the time to understand what your needs are and the pace that they can be addressed. If you’re currently using punch cards, hanging chad and all, but voting on things that have minimal impact on society, switching to an electronic voting machine isn’t going to help.

Tags: SOA, Governance

4 Responses to “Choosing appropriate SOA Governance”

  • […] I like Todd Biske’s take on appropriate SOA Governance. […]

  • […] Choosing appropriate SOA Governance (tags: soa) […]

  • […] The later half of the podcast talked about politics and governments, using world governments as a metaphor for the governance mechanisms that go on within an enterprise. This is not a new discussion for me, as this was one of my early blog entries that was reasonably popular. It is important to make your SOA governance processes fit in within your corporate culture and governance processes, provided that the current governance process is effective. If the current processes are ineffective, then clearly a change is in order. If the culture is used to a more decentralized approach to governance and has been successful in meeting the company’s goals based upon that approach, then a decentralized approach may work just fine. Keep in mind, however, that the corporate governance processes may not ripple down to IT. It’s certainly possible to have decentralized corporate governance, but centralized IT governance. The key question to ask is whether the current processes are working or not. If they are, it’s simply a matter of adding the necessary policies for SOA governance into the existing approach. If the current processes are not working, it’s unlikely that adding SOA policies to the mix is going to fix anything. Only a change to the processes will fix it. Largely, this comes down to architectural governance. If you don’t have anyone with the responsibility for this, you may need to augment your governance groups to include architectural representation. […]

  • […] of my earliest posts on the subject of governance emphasized that the most important thing is that your governance model […]

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