Driving SOA

Jason Bloomberg of ZapThink, in their latest ZapFlash, put a new spin on their old concept of the SOA champion and put forth a job description for VP of SOA. While he certainly suggested a good base salary for the position, I question whether a permanent, executive position around SOA makes sense?

If you look at the job responsibilities listed, the question I ask is not whether these tasks are needed, but rather, whether a dedicated person is needed for all of them. Let’s look at a few of them:

Provide executive-level management leadership to all architecture efforts across the enterprise. The directors of Business Architecture, Enterprise Architecture, Technical Architecture, Data Architecture, and Network Architecture will all be your direct reports.
Don’t we already have this? It sounds like a Chief Architect to me.

Drive all Business Process Management (BPM) initiatives enterprisewide. Coordinate with process specialists across all lines of business, and drive architectural approaches to business process.
Again, to me, this sounds like the responsibility of the COO.

Establish and drive a SOA governance board that incorporates the existing IT governance board.
This is the only one that I simply disagree with. If we’re speaking in terms of IT governance as defined in Peter Weill’s book, I think the IT Governance Board should be factoring SOA strategy and governance into their decisions. That is, IT Governance subsumes SOA governance, not vice versa. Of course, there are also aspects of SOA governance that are implemented at a much lower level within projects to ensure consistency of service definitions, etc. Once again, however, this should be handled by the existing technology governance processes. We’re merely adding some additional criteria for them to be applying to projects.

Establish and lead the SOA Center of Excellence across the enterprise to pull together and establish core architectural best practices for the entire organization. Develop and enforce a mandate for conformance to such best practices.
This gets into the technical governance I just mentioned. I certainly agree that a SOA COE can be a good thing, but you certainly don’t need a new position just to manage in it. Why wouldn’t the Chief Architect or a delegate lead the COE as part of their day to day responsibilities?

Manage a budget that is not tied to individual line-of-business projects, but is rather earmarked for cross-departmental SOA/BPM initiatives that drive business value for the enterprise as a whole.
The question here is whether or not the current organizational structure prevents cross-departmental initiatives from being funded and managed properly. It implies that the individual LOBs will be more concerned about their own needs, and not that of the broader enterprise. If the corporate governance principles and goals have stated that the use of more shared, cross-cutting tehcnologies are needed, then it’s really a governance problem. While an organizational change can assist, you still need to ensure that LOB managers are making decisions in line with the corporate goals, rather than that of their individual LOBs.

Work closely with the VP of Project Management to insure close cooperation between architecture and project management teams, and to improve project management policies.
Once again, why can’t this be done by the existing architectural leadership?

There were additional items, but my thoughts kept coming back to “shouldn’t someone already be doing this?” If the answer to this is “no,” then you must ask yourself whether or not you’re really committed to SOA adoption. If you feel that you are, but don’t have anyone assigned to these responsibilities, does the creation of a new position make sense? For example, if the organization struggles with getting LOB managers to produce cross-departmental solutions, will throwing one more person into the mix fix the problem, or just add another point of view?

As with many of the ZapThink ZapFlashes, there’s always a bit of controvery but lots of goodness. In this case, the articulation of the responsibilites associated with managing SOA adoption are excellent. Do you need a new position to do it? As with any organizational decision, it depends. If you are committed to SOA, but can’t make it happen simply because all of the possible candidates are simply to busy to take on these new responsibilities, then it might make sense (although you’ll probably need to add staff elsewhere, too, if people really are that busy). If you’re trying to use the position to resolve competiting priorities where there isn’t universal agreement on what the right thing to do for the enterprise is, a new position may not resolve it.

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