SOA Pilot

Miko Matsumura recently posted about the myth of starting small which was followed up by a response from Joe McKendrick of ZDNet.

Miko stated that the only ones getting it right were ZapThink, who state that “the things you do in a pilot are the exact opposite of what you need to do to get to enterprise scale.” For the record, I agree. This all comes down to defining the pilot properly. In their book, “Service Orient or Be Doomed!” Jason and Ron call out three SOA Pilot essentials: an architectural plan (the pilot will cover some portion of it), a specific scope, and clear acceptance criteria.

There shouldn’t be much controversy over these, but yet, the case studies and whitepapers that I see presented don’t have these elements, and it’s usually because the study is equating web services usage with SOA. Taking a user-facing customer portal and extending it by allowing customers to integrate their systems directly can be a good thing, but is it really an SOA pilot?

One of the key things, in my opinion, in a proper SOA pilot is to pick a problem that will require the organization to see the cultural changes that are necessary to become a service provider. In the portal case, the group maintaining the portal is already a service provider, so there’s no big stretch there. Instead, we need to find a service that has potential for reuse, and has no clear owner in the current organization structure. This scenario will give a good dose of what SOA is all about from an IT perspective. If you’re using the pilot to sell SOA to the business, you’ve got to be even more careful in your selection, especially in picking the right service consumers. Agility is a particularly difficult thing to pilot, because it only becomes evident when something needs to change. If a pilot is putting it in place for the first time, there’s no change involved. What can help pick the right pilot? The architectural plan. If the architectural plan isn’t already service-oriented, however, what do you do?

My advice is to first focus on why you’re doing the pilot, and what you hope to achieve/prove. If IT begins to understand what being a service-provider means (you need to have a pilot that have distinct service consumers and providers to do this), it is progress, even if the service isn’t as coarse-grained as it should be or can be used as a good case for business justification. It may not be SOA yet, but it is a step in right direction. Once you understand how the IT organization needs to change, now you can pick a service with a bit more impact that really can show the business that IT has its act together and can make a difference.

3 Responses to “SOA Pilot”

  • Nicely said.

    SOA is about enabling IT to become flexible and changeable, but also strategic to the business instead of just a commodity.

    In order to do so, IT must embody and encompass the business. In this sense, organizational change is inevitable and an overly small mindset will miss this fact. SOA has the potential to embed IT into such a fundamental and strategic position in the business that it will become the definition of the organization’s competitive advantage.

    Start small, indeed!

  • […] A friend of mine, Fred Domke, blogged about using a B2B scenario as an SOA pilot. In a previous posting, I discussed my opinions on what constitutes a good pilot. The key item that I mentioned was choosing something that will expose the organization to the cultural changes associated with becoming a service provider. […]

  • […] Alex Rosen and I will be giving a webinar next Friday on the role of pilots in achieving SOA success. I haven’t blogged on SOA Pilots in quite some time (March 23rd of last year, to be exact). It’s always interesting to go back and read some of my past posts to see how my thinking has evolved. I had quoted the ZapThink guys, as well as Miko Matsumura in that entry, stating: […]

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