Gartner AADI: Measuring the Value of SOA

I just finished my panel discussion with Mel Greer and Mike Kavis on measuring the value of SOA. I think we all had hoped that there would be more attendees, but hopefully those that chose to attend got something out of it. My main message was measure, measure, measure. I think it’s difficult to put a direct value on SOA adoption, that is, one where you can say the value was directly as a result of SOA efforts, but it’s not difficult to put a contributory value on SOA adoption. In other words, we need to measure the way IT is contributing to the success of the company as a whole, and as part of that, we can see some before and after measurements to see the impact of SOA and any other changes. The two things that I brought up in answering questions that I thought I’d share here are:

  • Instrument your services now. Part of the problem with measuring things today is that we haven’t instrumented things in the past. These days, value is almost always expressed in relative terms, such as “relative to what we’re doing now.” If you’re not collecting metrics, you can’t say what “now” is, though. Once again, we’re at one of those unique opportunities where the door is open to do things differently. Put the instrumentation in now, before you have a portfolio of 100+ services that have no instrumentation.
  • Measuring puts the spotlight on you, but will always enable you to answer questions better than before. A member of the audience asked the question, “What happens if your measurements show that you’re not achieving your goals?” This was a great question. Unfortunately, sometimes by the mere act of measuring things, people will immediately put the blame on you when things aren’t achieving the desired benefits, simply because you’re the one thing that can concretely demonstrate contribution (or lack thereof). My answer to this was two-fold. First, it was to try to make sure you have the backing metrics to allow proper root cause analysis. If you just focus on one metric, and nothing else, it makes root cause identification very difficult, and it puts the spotlight at the one area when you’re measuring. This puts strategic initiatives like SOA at risk, because people will think the whole thing is flawed, when in fact, the lack of results may have nothing at all to do with SOA adoption. Second, I talked about the appropriate spin to put on it, this being the political season in the US. When something doesn’t work out as planned, the way to spin the metrics is to show that we’re in a better spot to fix the problem because of the measurements than we would have been before.

The final thing I wanted to call out was a reference to a blog I posted yesterday at the request of Rob Eamon. Someone asked a question about how to get the stated goals from “the business” and the role of IT in contributing ways of measuring it. I called out that IT is part of the business, so there’s no reason that IT can’t contribute to the definition and appropriate ways to measure the business goals. Rather than viewing it as an “extraction” effort, it should be a joint effort with all members of the business, which includes IT.

If you attended the session, please feel free to post any comments or questions here. I hope it was valuable.

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