Poor governance undermines SOA

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Many service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives are in danger of going off the rails because project leaders have failed to address fundamental governance issues, experts have warned.

A new report from analyst firm Butler Group has highlighted a tendency for companies to underestimate the importance of building SOA governance frameworks at the outset.

The report warns that organisations frequently fail to appreciate the importance of having the right people in the right roles and with sufficient authority to ensure that the architecture’s design is in lockstep with business goals.

This means SOA cannot be viewed as solely a technology issue, said Butler Group analyst Rob Hailstone. “Governance of the environment needs to be implemented early with the understanding and endorsement of business stakeholders as well as IT executives,” he added.

The need for such governance was echoed by Peter Hambling, chief information officer at Lloyd’s of London. “You need to realise that just because one IT community will engineer something in one way, it does not mean everyone else will make the same choice,” he said.

Many firms are struggling to get business colleagues to buy into SOA initiatives, said HP services enterprise architect Uwe Birke. He said a lack of information detailing the cost savings that SOA strategies can deliver was making it very hard for IT to sell the idea to the business.

Despite these concerns, IT leaders remain adamant that SOA will earn its spurs in the enterprise.

Birke is a lead consultant on an SOA initiative at a multinational consumer goods manufacturer, where the best-received initiatives have gained acceptance by emphasing “the agility, flexibility, speed and reusability SOA can bring to the user”, he said. “Start with a quick-win, low-risk project to demonstrate the benefits,” Birke added.

Hambling argued that IT leaders needed to engage better with the board to foster enthusiasm for SOA. “How I deliver SOA architecture does not interest [the board] but explaining how I can deliver more for less interests them quite a bit,” he said.
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