Jun 7, 2011

Early Signs of SOA Success

successI’ve been working with a client for an extended period of time.  This large IT department has had a variety of SOA tools and technologies available and has been doing major systems integration for 10 years.  Yet while their SOA tools have allowed them to integrate quicker than manual development, their integration methodology (essentially none) has given them 0% reuse.

Reuse is a fine objective, but it may not actually be valuable depending on the business and IT organization goals.  In this client’s case we did an extensive evaluation of IT current state, IT future state plans and goals, and business goals.  That may sound like a lot of overhead to determine future state integration and SOA approaches, but in the current economic climate architecture for architecture’s sake is simply not acceptable (if it ever was).

Or to put it another way, when IT is aligned with and demonstrating direct business value then IT is valued by the business.  And this attitude has to filter down to enterprise architecture, integration and SOA.

This is not to justify SOA (service oriented architecture).  Rather, SOA must justify it’s overhead by demonstrating how it’s going to provide value in meeting the IT and business goals.

At this client we identified 3 primary business and IT drivers for integration:

1. Business and IT systems agility.  This client is in a dynamic business environment and is frequently reinventing parts of their business, leading to an unusually high volume of major application replacement and feature revamping.

2. Reliability.  As the complexity of the interconnections between systems and applications had been increasing, reliability was suffering, sometimes with real dollar measurable business impact of downtime or data loss.  (Correspondingly more and better people were needed for support as more time was spend on more complicated problems.)

3. Integration Cost Reduction.  Integration (and integration support) were taking higher and higher percentages of project budgets and the trend continues to grow.

As I noted at the beginning of the article, I’ve been working with this client for some time.  Meeting this client’s goals is mostly about IT process changing and IT thinking change (though some solutions can be met with select tools for certain parts of the problem), for which we’ve been planning and preparing and planting the seeds as we’re reviewing projects in progress before the new processes are complete.

This week I saw in the organization the first signs of real SOA success.  I was sitting with an integration architect who was describing how he just saved 75% of the integration of 3 projects because we designed the services used by the first project in a reusable pattern. 

And that’s how it starts.

The goal is not reuse, the goal is aligning IT to meet the business goals.  Reuse is a method.  And seeing my client beginning to have success with the method and start meeting their goals…that’s exciting!

(Now we have to quickly put in place the KPI’s [key performance indicators] to measure the success and report it to all levels of IT management.  That’s the way to reinforce the positive people pattern and get the integration people positive recognition.)