Providing good service

Beth Gold-Bernstein had a great post entitled, “The Second S in Saas” that outlined her experience in trying to get a backup restored from an online survey site.

This is clearly important when you’re dealing with external service providers, but I’d like to add that it is equally important for the services that you build in house. The typical large enterprise today is rife with politics, with various organizations battling for control, whether they realize it or not. SOA strikes fear into the heart of many a project manager because the success of their effort is now dependent on some other team. Ultimately, however, success is not defined by getting the project done on time and on budget, success can only be determined by meeting the business goals that justified the project in the first place. If something goes wrong, what’s the easiest course of action? Point the finger at the elements that were outside of your control.

I experienced this many times over when rolling out some new web service infrastructure at an organization. Teams building services were required to use it, and whenever something went wrong, it was the first thing that was blamed, usually without any root cause analysis. Fortunately, I knew that in order to provide good service for the teams that were leveraging this new infrastructure, I needed to be on top of it. I usually knew about problems with services before they did, and because the infrastructure put in place increased visibility, it was very easy to show that it wasn’t the new infrastructure, and in fact, the new infrastructure provided the information necessary to point to where the problem really was. Interestingly, this infrastructure was in the middle, between the consumer and the provider. Arguably, the teams responsible for the services should be looking at the same information I was, and be on top of these problems before some user calls up and says it’s broken.

If you simply put services into production and ignore it until the fire alarm goes off, you’re going to continue to struggle in achieving higher levels of success with SOA adoption, whether you’re a SaaS provider or a service developer inside the enterprise.

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