Governance is not Optional

In a post on his Fast Forward blog, Joe McKendrick asked the question, “Does Enterprise 2.0 Need to be Governed?” This title brought to mind a common misconception about governance. It’s not an optional activity. While there may be people that aren’t aware of it, it’s there. Even in the smallest organization, governance is there, it’s just that it’s completely manageable because everyone can talk to everyone else and there’s a small number of goals that everyone is aware of. In a startup, there needs to be desired behaviors and policies that guide the business strategy of the company. For example, what will be the balance between funding for marketing and funding for engineering? Both are needed, and failure of either one can doom the startup, yet competing startups will often take very different approaches.

In the writing of my SOA Governance Book, the reviewers both asked about connections between SOA Governance and IT Governance, or even the overall corporate governance. In my post about the four processes of governance, Rob Eamon asked why the processes couldn’t apply to architecture governance in general. The truth is, the fundamentals of governance- desired behavior, people, policies, and processes- apply regardless of the domain being governed. If you reach a point where there are enough variables involved with the efforts of your organization, whether that be the number of people employed, the number of projects executed, or many other factors, that there is now risk of people going off in a variety of directions due to unclear or competing priorities, you need governance. Anne Thomas Manes pointed this in out in the context of REST in Joe’s post. From Joe’s post:

Anne Thomas Manes says a lot of REST advocates she speaks with feel that governance isnít required for REST-based services. ìAt which point I respond saying, are you kidding? Think about how many people have created really, really bad POX applications that they claim to be rest and actually have almost no representation of the REST principles involved. They donít follow any of the constraints, and theyíre basically just tunneling RPCs to URLs.î

Put simply, we need to ensure that rather than just building things, we are building the right things, the right way. Good governance that can make that happen. Poor governance results in teams doing whether they deem as important in their corner of the world, or more likely, whatever the easiest path is for them, by first focusing on things completely within their control.

As a side note, it was disappointing to see that ebizQ’s SOA Governance Panel didn’t include any practitioners. They had 2 analysts and 4 vendors. While I’m not campaigning for future panelist slots, and I know and respect all of the panelists, governance is one of those topics that shouldn’t be discussed without at least one practitioner, preferably a corporate practioner. Some of the big federal consulting practices would also have a lot to offer, since they effectively are the corporate IT for the government agencies. There are plenty of ways to get anaylst and vendor views on it, let’s here from the people that are dealing with it on a day to day basis on what works and what doesn’t.

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