SOA Consortium Meeting: Jeanne Ross

I’m here at the SOA Consortium meeting in Orlando. The first speaker at the event was Jeanne Ross from the Center for Information Systems Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. They had recently completed a study on SOA adoption, and she presented some of the findings to the consortium. If you’re not familiar with Jeanne Ross, I thoroughly recommend two of her books, IT Governance and Enterprise Architecture as Strategy. I continue to refer to some of the concepts I learned from these books as part of my day-to-day job.

One of the interesting takeaways I had from Jeanne’s presentation was the information on the value companies are getting out of reusing services. What the study has found is that while there is definite measurable value that comes out of reuse, in many cases that effort comes at a very significant cost, a cost that often usurps the value generated. This made me think about a discussion that I frequently have with people concerning “enterprise” services versus “non-enterprise” services. In these discussions, it’s always been a black-or-white type of discussion where my stance is that we should assume a service has the potential to be an enterprise service unless told otherwise while the stance of the person I’m speaking to is frequently the exact opposite. It turns out that neither of these positions is the right way.

If you took my old stance, the problem is that you incur costs associated with building and operating a service. If that service doesn’t get reused, you won’t recoup that cost. If you took the opposing stance, you avoid the initial cost, but then you’re at risk of incurring an even higher cost when someone wants to reuse it. To maximize the value that you get out of your services, we need to find something in the middle. There does need to be a fixed amount of cost that will get sunk into any service development effort, but it needs to be focused on answering the question of whether or not we should incur the full cost of making it an enterprise service with full service lifecycle management, or if we should simply focus on the project at hand and leave it at that. I’m going to give this topic more thought and try to determine what that fixed cost should be and hopefully have some future blog entries on the subject. In the meantime, if you have ideas on what you think it should be, please comment or trackback. I’d love to hear more on how others are approaching this.

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