Assume Enterprise!

One of my pet peeves when it comes to discussing services is when an organization gets into debates over whether a particular service is an “enterprise service” or not. These discussions always drive me nuts. My first question usually is what difference does it make? Will you suddenly change the way you construct something? It shouldn’t. More often than not, this conversation comes up when a project team wants to take a shortcut and avoid doing the full analysis that it will take to determine the expected number of consumers, appropriate scoping, etc. Instead, they want to focus exclusively on the project at hand and do only as much as necessary to satisfy that project’s needs. My advice is to always assume that a service is going to be used by the entire enterprise, and if time tells us that it’s only used by one consumer, that’s okay. Unfortunately, it seems that most organizations like to make the opposite assumption: assume that a service will only be used by the particular consumer in mind at that moment unless proven otherwise. This is far easier to swallow in the typical project-based culture of IT today, because odds are the service development team and the service consumer team are most likely the same group all working on the same project.

The natural argument against assuming that all services are “enterprise” services is that all of our services will be horribly over-engineered with a bunch of stuff thrown in because someone said, “What if?” The problem with over-engineering a service (or anything else) doesn’t stem from assuming that a service will have enterprise value, it stems from someone coming up with “what if” scenarios in place of analysis techniques to deeply understand the “right” capabilities that a service needs to provide. Analysis isn’t easy, and there’s no magic bullet that will ensure the right questions are asked to uncover this information, but I think many efforts today are not done to the best of our ability. As a result, people make design decisions based on a best guess, which can lead to either over or under-engineering.

I believe that if you are adopting SOA at an enterprise level, it will result in a fundamental change in the way IT operates and solutions are constructed. Requiring someone to prove that a service is an “enterprise” service before treating it as a service with appropriate processes and hygiene to manage the service lifecycle does nothing to promote this culture change, and in fact, is an inhibitor to that culture change. Will assuming that all services are enterprise services result in higher short term costs? Probably. Building something for use by a broader audience is more expensive, plenty of studies have shown that. On the other hand, assuming that all services are enterprise services will position you far better to achieve cost reduction in the long term as advocated by SOA.

Leave a Reply


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.