Service-Oriented Consulting

Congratulations and best of luck to Brenda Michelson. She recently left her position with Patricia Seybold Group and introduced Elemental Links, Inc. To quote her blog:

Elemental Links is an IT consulting and advisory practice specializing in strategy, architecture, and portfolio planning for business-driven IT.

Brenda’s announcement got me thinking about the role of consulting in SOA adoption. For the record, I am not a consultant nor have I ever been a consultant, at least in the formal paid sense. I fall into the category of practicing Enterprise Architect like James McGovern and Mike Herrick. I would be an end-user of consulting practices. While I have many friends that are practicing analysts and/or consultants in this space, including Brenda, Jeff Schneider, and the ZapThinkers, Jason and Ron, they all tend to come out of the IT consultancy/advisory space. While there certainly is a market for this, and will be for some time, what is the right way to grow a business in this space?

The answer to this will largely depend on your view on whether SOA is an IT-driven thing or business-driven thing. We all know that a goal of SOA adoption is to render this a moot point. After all, IT is part of the business, isn’t it? While IT-Business alignment will continue to garner significant press for years to come, most would agree that SOA adoption should be about the business and not about the technology. Presuming things head this direction, what does this mean for SOA Consulting companies? Will they be competing for business with companies that provide assistance in adopting Six Sigma and other business re-engineering and improvement efforts? To what extent will these consultancies need to become specialists in different verticals, such as manufacturing, health care, financial services, retail, etc. in order to be successful? Will the marketplace shift to groups that have a more business-centric focus on technology, such as companies like Patricia Seybold Group and Elemental Links? Will SOA become more associated with business discussions than with technical discussions, or will some other term be used?

In my mind, the bigger problem is on the business side. There are lots and lots of consulting companies that exist that can author services in any desired flavor and platform. The real problem is in identifying what the right services are. There are plenty of case studies that have leveraged services for technical benefits, such as in a B2B integration scenario, but where are the case studies that are about SOA and BPM efforts leading to business change and innovation? Who are the consultancies that will make this happen? What will they look like 5 years from now?

I’d love to hear the thoughts of Brenda, Jeff, Patricia Seybold, and any others on this, in as much as they’re willing to share, since it certainly involves their business strategy. I’d also like to hear what other enterprise practitioners like James, Mike, Scott, Mark, and others have to say.

Technorati tags: soa bpm consulting six-sigma

4 Responses to “Service-Oriented Consulting”

  • Todd,
    Interesting conversation you have started. I have been skeptical about the “SOA is about the business thing” for a while now. To me it’s always been about the business, it’s why we are here. SOA has moved how we construct and look at applications for the business from a lower level component level design to a higher level with a process centric view of the world. The business client is wary of this and some (not all) see this as another IT thing. I know BPM vendors have been pushing this. Let the business analyst design the process with their new BPM tool (anyone can use it) and the IT folks will just auto-generate the code. Yeah, sure and I’ve got the Mid-East peace thing solved as well.

    I think SOA consultants will have to address this by being vertically aligned in certain industries with a proven track record. The ROI will have to be measurable in a way that the business client can grasp. I think some businesses will get it and some businesses will not. If the ROI can not be demonstrated, SOA will pass into the fad phase eventually in my opinion. Overall I would say that SOA as a term has been thrown around so much by so many vendors that a lot of business and IT analysts are starting to tune it out. This is bad because there is some real value there I think.

  • Todd,

    Thanks for well wishes. I think as service-orientation moves from an over hyped, nebulous, IT thing, to a basic fiber of the IT and business fabric, all of the mentioned players (management consultants, business process specialists, business-driven technologists, and technology specialists) will be involved.

    Who a company starts with, beyond its own team, depends on the answer to “Why SOA?�

    – For companies considering process networks and dynamic specialization, service-orientation is part of the business strategy. Start with management consultants.

    – For companies thinking about business responsiveness, real-time information flow, and ecosystem connectedness, service-orientation is applied to business process and organization design, as well as IT strategy. Start with business process/re-engineering specialists and business driven technologists.

    – For companies thinking about IT business alignment, IT agility and/or IT architecture, service-orientation is part of the IT strategy. Start with business driven technologists and technology specialists.

    – For companies thinking about solving a particular business problem with technology, service-orientation is part of a delivery strategy. Start with technology/methodology specialists.

    In the first three, the need for service-orientation (business, organization, architecture, technology) might emerge during the engagement, rather than as a starting point. So, five years out, service-oriented consulting will part of a consulting firm’s practices, rather than its brand.

    Oh, and if folks can’t answer “Why SOA?�, I’d suggest starting with “no strings attached� training.


  • […] Todd Biske: Outside the Box SOA, BPM, and other strategic IT initiatives All information herein represents my own opinions, and not those of my employer or any other third party except where explicitly stated. « Service-Oriented Consulting […]

  • +1 for Brenda’s response.

Leave a Reply


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.