The SOA Consortium and CIO magazine recently announced the winners of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Case Study Competition. All of the winners successfully delivered business or mission value using an SOA approach.
As I listened to the presentation, I observed common characteristics across each successful SOA implementation. I grouped them into eight categories.
Strong Executive Level Sponsorship and SOA Evangelist
Each project had strong sponsorship from high ranking individuals from the business and/or IT. This is critical for driving change throughout the organization and removing roadblocks. Without top-level support, many SOA initiatives never get the momentum, the resources and the drive required to allow IT to deliver the promise of SOA to the business. It was also noted that a strong SOA evangelist was highly critical for each of these award-winning case studies. In fact, research shows that in instances where SOA evangelists leave a company, the company has a risk of failing with future projects or regressing back to the previous methods of delivering software.
Educating the Business of the Value of SOA
Each one of the case studies provided an enormous amount of value to the business. In some cases, the return on investment was several billions of dollars over the course of a few years. In order to find these extraordinary opportunities and to build a business case around them, it is critical that the business becomes educated on the promise of SOA.
The key to educating the business, however, is not talking to the business about the technology or even mentioning the term service-oriented architecture. Instead the business needs to understand the key business drivers that are being addressed (quicker access to information, integration with customers and partners, eliminating wasteful business processes, etc.) on how IT has some "new methods" for helping to deliver these drivers. The business doesn't necessarily need to know how IT will do it; they need to understand which of their problems SOA solves and what is required from the business to help IT solve them.
Established a Center of Excellence (CoE)
Every winning case study had some form of CoE established. It may have been called something else, such as a Configuration Control Board, but all had some formal body that was responsible for governing the SOA initiative. Some of these companies already had in place an established Enterprise Architecture complete with IT governance and simply needed to make adjustments for SOA. Others did not have a formal governance plan and had to create one with enough controls in place to deliver the desired business results. The level of control and the scope of each company's governance model were unique, but every successful project sited governance as a key success factor.
Start With Well-defined Business Processes and Scale Up
In each case, candidate services were identified after well-defined business processes were established. In some cases, the business processes were already in place; in others some business processing re-engineering was required prior to creating any services. In each case, the goal was to start with some subset of business processes as opposed to trying to do it all at once. Each case study had a well-defined scope and a vision of what the future state looked like.