Policies and SOA Governance

Unless you’re completely disconnected from mainstream media, you’ve certainly heard the word “policy” in the news recently. It’s been frequently prefaced with two additional words: “failed economic” as in “the failed economic policies of this administration.” With this, there should be no doubt that there is a connection between policy and governance. Policies are the rules that, if followed, should lead to the desired behavior for an organization. In the case of the current financial crisis, economic policies are ones that should lead to the desired behavior of the economy.

The current situation actually serves as a very good example for a discussion on policy and governance. First off, I’ve yet to hear any of the candidates call out the specific policies that they believe were wrong. The closest that they have come is to attack the deregulation that went on the 90’s. Now, you can argue that deregulation is a policy. In effect, it’s a policy that says, “We’re going to make this domain someone else’s responsibility” and that’s perfectly all right. If your view of governance is that it’s all about decision rights, this is in line with that approach. The policies don’t end there, however. The next policy that could be examined is the lending policies of the institutions that gave mortgages to people who had no hope of ever paying them off. My personal opinion is that this is the failed policy, which wasn’t a policy put in place by democrats or republicans, but by the lending institutions.

Now that the candidates are now trying to offer solutions for the situation, it shows that there are many ways of addressing the fact that the desired economic behavior is not being achieved. We can certainly change the people involved, and I think there’s an underlying assumption that with a change in people, the policies will change too. Second, we can change the policies. In this example, there are two areas for change, however. Changing the policies around regulation only changes who can set the policies around lending. It could be just as easy for a different set of people to keep the same bad lending policies in place. The second area is the lending policies used by the banks. Clearly, changes here would certainly stop the bleeding, so to speak. Finally, we can change the processes. Perhaps the lending policies on paper were fine, but were routinely ignored. Putting more rigid enforcement and auditing in place would be one way of addressing this.

So how does all of this apply to SOA Governance? The same general approach is applicable to the world of SOA governance. If you’re not getting the desired outcome from your SOA efforts, then perhaps you need to look at the policies you have that govern your SOA efforts. Have you “deregulated” your SOA and simply expect your projects to do the right thing? Do those projects care about the greater corporate economy, or are they simply concerned about the project “shareholders” and focused on delivering on-time and on-budget and nothing else? Perhaps the problem isn’t that critical, but the efforts are disjointed. A centralization of policy administration into a Center of Excellence may be in order. Or, perhaps the policies are there, but aren’t being followed, so a change in processes is needed. Finally, it could be in such dire straits that a complete change in leadership is needed. In my opinion, however, it all begins with policies. If you’re not getting the results you want, take a look at the policies you have (or the lack thereof). Either the policies are not yielding the results desired, or the policies are not being followed. If the latter, look at your processes and make changes there. If the former, you need a policy change. Your current SOA leadership can change the policies, or if they are blind to the problems in front of them, then make a change to the leadership to people that will put new policies in place. A change in personnel with no corresponding change to policies or processes is no change, and a change in personnel without an analysis of the policies they will put in place to determine if they will yield the desired behavior will also fail.

Want to learn more about governance as people, policies, and process? Check out my book on SOA Governance available now from Packt Publishing, and from other online book stores soon!

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