How Long Does SOA Take to Pay Off?

Loraine Lawson

It seems SOA adopters are more likely to find success in their second or third year-and after a bit of tailoring SOA to meet your busines needs, according to JP Morgenthal, the Tech Evangelist blogger and a Sr. Principal Architect with QinetiQ North America's Mission Systems Group.


This "tailoring" business in particular has Morgenthal rethinking what constitutes SOA. Maybe, he wonders in a recent post, SOA's not so much about architecture as about strategy.


I know what you're thinking - "Oh no, not again with the what-is-SOA debate." Well, hold your horses-that's not really the takeaway here.


The bigger point, at least as I see it, is that word, "tailoring." It goes a long way toward explaining why it's been so hard to pin down a definition of SOA-but more importantly, it goes a long way toward explaining how you should approach SOA if you want to find success. Morgenthal admits this was hard for him to see, at first, because he was hung up on the concept of SOA as an architecture (or architectural style, some would argue).


It's a mindset he had to rethink after moderating a panel at the 1105 Group's Enterprise Architecture Conference:


"... in opening myself up to the idea that SOA may be more of a concept than an actual architectural approach, it became clear to me that that each organization may also organically formulate their own approximation of SOA that meets the needs of their business as functional components, or services. Moreover, each business' approach toward SOA will most likely look completely different than any other business' approach, their pain points will be different and their approach toward measuring success will be different."


Where does that leave us with SOA and how can you use this information? According to Morgenthal, this takes the focus off supporting infrastructure-which is what all too many companies do, trying to figure out which tools or solutions they should buy-and leaves us with a set of templates or patterns, which each business must tailor:


"... if we know this information going into an SOA effort, we can better manage expectations of the business with regard to Return-on-Investment (ROI) and time frames. Most of all, if the tailoring effort is a known part of the process, then unrealistic expectations can be removed from the practitioners, allowing them to focus on reaching successful ends."


As I see it, it's a license to worry less about whether you're doing SOA properly and more about tinkering with the concept to find out how it can work for your business. But it's also nice to know while you're in the thick of it that you're looking at a two- to three-year time span for success.

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Oct 1, 2009 1:58 AM Rathina S. Dhandapani Rathina S. Dhandapani  says:

Loraine, Nice post with interesting observations. SOA's strategic nature and business buy-in aspects are coming to the fore frequently and rightly so. Timeframe of two to three years is comforting, but this is a sample from a group that realized the benefit of SOA or felt as such. Data from a larger group may offer surprising numbers. ROI is likely to depend on the nature of an SOA initiative, frequency of business changes and the magnitude of such changes. I incidentally highlighted this in a recent article ( ) I feel timeframe of 2 - 3 years is good enough to undergo 6-8 iterations of reasonably major business changes coupled with supporting IT changes. This may very well be the "tailoring" period to set realistic expectations. The challenge from now on would be to pass on details about unrealistic expectations and cut short this "tailoring" period.


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