In the last weeks and months many (partially populist) articles and blogs have been published carrying headlines such as “SOA is dead!” and “SOA is too cost intensive and complicated”! Those articles caused many rumors and confusion in companies and organizations whether it is worthwhile proceeding or even starting SOA related projects or not.
We think that is not the question of “if SOA at all or not” but rather of “how to start“. It is correct when claiming that the majority of SOA related projects have failed so far. But instead of questioning the overall methodology or even burying this revolutionary concept, it makes in our opinion more sense to evaluate a little bit more in detail the main reasons for those high failure rates.
Analyzing the reasons for failure typically three different categories can be identified. Whereas two of them mainly focus the mid and long term aspects such as a proper service definition and implementations and the right buy in of the upper management, we would like to take a closer look at the third category which has short term the highest importance.
Short term the biggest problems are often caused by the overall approach. Instead of trying to just start small, meaning to chose a manageable business pain point or business requirement for implementation, many customers immediately work on a long term strategy or roadmap, on detailed models for organization and governance.
For sure setting up an appropriate organizational structure and governance model within an organization is essential for successfully establishing a service-oriented architecture in the long run. But seriously which oil company would start building large refineries or factories next to a potential oil field by just believing that there could be oil without doing some test drilling first? Or if you want to climb a high mountain you do not already start drilling safety hooks into the ground before the mountain even is in sight.
What we want to say with that is that not all energy, budget, resources and time should be spent on planning a long term strategy. Companies in these days of high competition and in the middle of a world wide recession need quick solutions and fast process improvements with a “ROI in reach“. Only if the CIO of a company sees the value of an investment, he/she will be willing to invest more in it.
How to proceed?
Why not start with a small “test balloon” where there is a fair chance of a quick success and where not too much resources and time have to be invested? If the first scenario is chosen in that way that productized enterprise services are used, the danger of missing governance does not exist. Additionally involvement of experienced external resources in the first project might be helpful in some kind of “coaching approach”. This helps to learn and adopt fast the use of a service-oriented architecture and to avoid typical pitfalls causing higher costs and delays including frustration of involved people. Anyway expectations for a first small project should not be too high, because everybody should keep in mind that the use of SOA means new methodology and thus an increasing learning curve. And as always if something new is used or introduced there might be smaller problems lowering the ROI in the beginning.
In spite of smaller starting problems we believe that with a step by step approach the likeliness of success will be significantly higher leading to further interest and investment in a service-oriented architecture. Then as a second step there definitely is also the need for putting in place a long-term SOA strategy including the overall architecture, a supporting organizational structure and the right governance. Because as according to Confuzius: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!
And in spite of a high failure rate in SOA implementation projects there anyway already have been several successful SOA implementations happened where corresponding showcases and success stories are available.
So why waiting and hesitating? “SOA is alive and kicking” and with the right approach and support the likeliness of success is also high. And experts located in SOA Competence Centers like ours for Retail and Wholesale are prepared to contribute our part to a successful project!