Important Questions for Successful Governance

Loraine Lawson of IT Business Edge asked the question, “Is there a right time for SOA Governance?” and offered her thoughts on the answer. In it, she quoted her interview with me, when she asked me about starting with buying a tool. But the meat of the article was a discussion around a recent Aberdeen report on SOA Governance. Key points she calls out:

“Truly effective SOA governance infects itself into the organizations’ DNA…”

This is absolutely true. My view on governance is that it is about guiding an organization to a desired behavior. If the organization is behaving that way, no one even realizes that governance is there, simply because the desired behavior has become second nature. Interestingly, at least one group I’ve spoken with that is closer to that path had to go through a heavy-handded phase first. I’m interested to know whether that is typically the case or not.

The real thing that I want to call out were her conclusions at the end though, which I feel are very consistent with the approach I espouse in my book. She states:

This suggests to me that there are more important questions to consider with SOA governance than when you should start. For instance, ask who’s driving SOA governance (you or the technology tool)? Where should you begin (the report provides a hint that it should be with securing executive business support)? And what steps should you take now to support long-term success?

My definition of SOA governance is the people, policies, and processes that an organization leverages to achieve the desired behavior associated with SOA adoption. Who is driving SOA governance? That’s the people involved. Where should you begin? The Aberdeen report suggests securing executive business support. I suggest that it begins with articulating the desired behavior. Who does that? The stakeholders of the effort which very well may be your key business sponsors. How do you achieve long-term success? By having your “governors” establish the policies that will lead to the desired behavior, and by not forgetting the fourth process of governance (see my four processes of governance post), measurement and feedback. If you just establish policies and then focus on enforcement, but never stop to look and see if complying with the policies actually results in the desired behavior, you may not achieve the intended success.

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