Finding the Right Size Company for SOA

Loraine Lawson

Recently, there's been a bit of discussion over whether the size of the organization matters with SOA. I can understand if that seems like an insignificant question to you, but I beg to differ: As SOA settles out of its hype cycle and finds its place among the pantheon of options, it seems very fitting to me to ask which organizations are best poised to actually implement and benefit from SOA.


I tinkered with the question awhile back, in a post called "The SOA Paradox: Rejecting the Architecture, Embracing the Concepts." I wrote it coming off two interviews with mid-market CIOs who dismissed SOA, saying it wasn't for them and basically calling it hype. I have reservations about the way they defined SOA, but the fact remains that they weren't doing it and, frankly, their opinion of it wasn't unprecedented or unpopular. And yet, around the same time, Forrester analyst Randy Heffner released a survey on SOA adoption saying that a majority of IT executives were pleased with the results of their enterprise SOA efforts-which prompted me to wonder aloud whether SOA really benefits large organizations and perhqaps small companies that deliver software or services online.


Joe McKendrick took note, arguing that SOA could benefit any size organization, but acknowledging that, "In many ways, SOA is still a luxury for well-endowed organizations with sizeable IT staffs."


I thought that was the end of it, but over the weekend, I caught a tweet by consultant and CTO Mike Kavis - aka the Mad Greek.


"SOA: Does size matter?" Kavis asked, and linked to a post he'd written Saturday.


Kavis is speaking from experience as the CTO of M-Dot and an enterprise architect-he's the vice president and director of Social Technologies for the Center for the Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession. He drew on his SOA experiences with a mid-sized company and a start-up to address whether it's harder to implement SOA in a large organization than a smaller one.


He makes a compelling case for why SOA was easier at the start-up-but perhaps more importantly, he identifies exactly what makes SOA so hard at mid-sized firms. I think it's an excellent piece and well worth the read, but I do have one issue with the piece.


I feel he doesn't so much demonstrate that SOA is easier at smaller organizations, as he proves that SOA is easier when you're starting from scratch, without legacy systems and their devotees to obstruct you. That may be the situation in start-ups, but the same can't automatically be said for other small organizations, which I contend could have just as many legacy and political issues as a mid-size company.


In fact, I'd wager to say that you might have a harder time convincing smaller organizations with legacy systems to move to SOA. I tend to agree with IT Business Edge reader Luong Le-Huy, who wrote, "Small organisations often think they can or should only affort 'small' thinking IT people who love 'technical' talk and low-hanging fruits as the only (IT) things management recognizes."


So, as far as I'm concerned, the question still stands: Is SOA something that appeals primarily to large organization initiative-and, of course, the start-ups who are delivering software or services online?

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