SOA and EA

Greetings from the Shared Insights EA Conference. I just finished attending a case study given by Eric Carsten of Ford Motor Company. It was an excellent presentation in two ways. First, the concerns he outlined that their EA organization was trying to address certainly hit home with my own experiences within a large enterprise: technology consolidation and everything that goes along with it. He had a great item when he showed five business goals, and how those same goals could be applied to the technology domain. This was great, however don’t misinterpret this as business/IT alignment. For example (hypothetical, Eric didn’t say this), a goal of Ford could be consolidation. Applied to the business, this would be a reduction in the number of models being sold. Applied to IT, this would be a reduction in the number of technology vendors being used. While both will contribute to lowering costs, it would be difficult to directly show how a reduction in the technology platforms leads to a reduction in the models being produced.

This leads to the second thing that I found interesting. Ford’s EA organization, at least what I inferred from this one presentation, is very technology focused. It is involved with governing project technology decisions. That is, it is focused on the “how” to do things, rather than the “what.” This poses a problem if SOA is expected to be driven from the EA organization. If the EA organization is too focused on the how, it will help out in selecting service technologies but it won’t help on what services to build. I think this is a natural evolution for an EA group, however, it’s a big, big challenge. Technology selection is inherently part of EA, akin to cleaning your own house. Choosing what solutions to build on that technology is a business decision. This means that the EA organization must be involved closely with the business in order to pull it off. If they aren’t, what organization will drive the SOA effort? Perhaps that’s an indication that the organization isn’t ready for it yet. Once the EA organization has been invited to the portfolio planning/IT governance table, their chances of success will likely increase. I think I’ll ask this question now of the panel discussion that I’m sitting in…

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