Portfolio Management and SOA

The title of this blog is “outside the box.” The reason I chose that title is because I think it captures the change in thinking that must occur to be successful with SOA. It’s my opinion that most enterprises are primarily doing “user-facing” projects. That is, the entire project is rooted in the delivery of some component that interacts with an end user. Behind that user interface, there’s a large amount of coding going on, but ultimately, it’s all about what that end user sees. This poses constraints on the project in terms of what can be done. Presuming a standard N-tier architecture, the first thing behind that UI from a technical standpoint is the business tier, or better stated from an SOA perspective, the business service tier. In order to have these services provide enterprise value, rather than project value, the project team must think outside the box. Unfortunately, that means looking for requirements outside of the constraints that have been imposed, a project manager’s worst nightmare.

So how should this problem be addressed? The problem lies at the very beginning- the project definition process. Projects need to have scope. That scope establishes constraints on the project team. Attempts to go outside those constraints can put the project delivery at risk. In order to do things right, the initial constraints need to be set properly. The first step would be to never tie a project delivering a user interface with a project delivering services. Interestingly, this shows how far the loose coupling must go! Not only should the service consumer (the UI) be loosely coupled from the service provider in a technical sense, it’s also true from a project management sense! How does this happen? Well, this now bubbles up to the project definition process which is typically called IT portfolio management. Portfolio management is part of the standard definition of IT Governance, and it’s all about picking the projects to do and funding them appropriately. Therefore, the IT governance committee than handles portfolio management needs to be educated in SOA. The Enterprise Architects must deliver a Service Roadmap to that group so they know what services are needed for the future and can now make appropriate decisions to ensure that projects to create those services happen at the right time, and are not inappropriately bundled with service consumers, leading to a conflict of interest, and ultimately, a service that may not meet the needs of the enterprise.

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