Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Business doesn't ask for SOA

Testimony from practice: Up till now, at this very moment in time, I didn't meet one single business manager who begged me to please deliver him an SOA-based solution. They are running after deadlines and project-cost reductions, but not after SOA. They are even cynical about SOA as being yet another promise after all those previous ones. Of course all those previous promises were a step ahead, just as SOA is. And I believe SOA is a big step ahead. But our business people don't want SOA's, they want flexible and cheap solutions. And they want I.T. not to be a big hurdle when they change the way they happen to do things. But they definitely did not ask me for an SOA.

And another testimony from practice: Developers - in general - don't get the clue of SOA. The marketeers of most software companies evangelize their ability to build service oriented systems. But the people who really have to deal with the details are not educated to get a grip on the practical use of the principles of autonomous business functions, loose coupling and asynchronous design. They are trained to use the modelling tools of Websphere, Sonic and Tibco, but SOA is not their mind-set. It's the individual passionated nerds we have to rely on, not the average developer or designer.

But fortunately I can also testify about curious development teams that are slowly adopting the new wave. Development teams that operate very close to the business in a very rapidly ever changing commercial context. These are the people I enjoy working with.

And another good sign is that the builders of packaged software - like SAP - not only evangelize SOA, but are really spending big efforts to service enable their legacy. Also the SOA initiatives of SaaS-providers like SalesForce are a great boost.

All together I believe it will take at least another 10 years or so before SOA becomes mainstream and common sense to all of us. And keep in mind that we are not hired to deliver SOA's to the business, but solutions. That's what they ask for.


Christopher said...

When you said, "our business people don't want SOA's, they want flexible and cheap solutions", aren't you pretty much defining your scope for a Service?

It seems like the best way to truly start the ball rolling in your org is to enable yourself to be flexible on what YOU require, rather than attempt to enforce that flexibility at the business level. We aren't going to convince the decision makers to all-at-once, invest millions and millions at reinventing our infrastructure as a model for Service Oriented Architecture.

Of course they want something cheap and flexible! Build it for 'em, and then add another week or two to add a Service Layer on top of it all, and publish it's capabilities. Then, tell the business owner of your app, that he's on the latest and greatest SOA (I'll let you use whatever techno-koolaid you need to), and it hardly cost him/her a dime. Rinse and, repeat for the apps you can.

Soon enough, you'll have a SOA-based infrastructure put together, just in time for the new architectural ideal to come out. :)

Jack said...

You are completely right, Christopher. Don't try to sell SOA to the business (why is it happening all the time?), but use SOA to offer what they ask for. That is our IT-responsibility. So why bother the business with SOA-this, SOA-that? See this.

To be able to do so, you need developers who understand SOA to the bones... and that's another challenge.

Gunther said...

it is funny though, because in my working envrionment very often the business persons speak in solutions rather than problems and it is very difficult to get them to step back and to forget about the buzzwords they heard somewhere (such as SOA) and don't understand.
In anyway I usually try to make an effort to extract the actual business problem that needs to be solved and decide later at technology this allows for optimal selection of technolgies for the problem rather than trying to match the technology to the problem later......

Nick Malik said...


Excellent Post


The scope of a service is not defined by the solution. That is what leads to overlapping, redundant solutions with a bad integration model. Who cares if you create services, if you cannot use them.

What you advocate is bottom-up soa. That doesn't work in the long run, and just gives ammunition to all those people who say "you asked us to spend 10% more on these useless services... now WE decide what you will build."

If you wonder why the business doesn't let IT innovate, it is because dumb ideas catch on.

SOA requires that you make integration your highest-order bit. It is not an addon.

Listen to Jack, Cristopher. He gets it. He is one of the very very few who gets it.

Mike Kavis said...

It pains me to see another one of these articles. Here is my take on this topic.

I have sold SOA to the business as the tool that enables BPM (which the business wants).

Jack said...

Thanks for your comment Mike.

Of course SOA will help business a lot forward. Enabling BMP is a good example. The point however is: should it matter to us - from an IT point of view - that the business understands SOA? WHY should they know? From a business perspective you might say: it is important to know how to "service orient" the organization. (see this). And then again should IT folks tell the business folks they currently are not modeling and organizing their business processes correctly? That it should be service oriented? I think business people - in general - now very well how to organize business; and must be free not to "service orient"... while IT does; See this.

If funding is the reason: I think it should be an IT-investment to put things in place and not a business investment. Funny enough this is exactly what is meant with "service oriented".

Nick Malik very aptly explains why selling SOA to the business might be regarded as trivial:

We don't discuss SOA with the business because we don't discuss professionalism or intelligence with our business... it is assumed and required that we behave with best practices and bring the best available design. That includes SOA.

By the way: I enjoyed reading your referenced article; IF I were to continue selling SOA to the business I would have very much faith in your approach.