Focusing on the Long-Term Strategy

Loraine Lawson

"Are we shorting SOA?" Joe McKendrick asked this week on his ZDNet blog. In particular, he's questioning whether pundits might be doing a disservice to service-oriented architecture by calling for a refocusing of SOA due to the recession.

We're making calls to focus SOA on short-term wins and cost-containment measures. And, certainly, SOA plays a role in cost cutting, streamlining, extending existing assets, and consolidation. But in doing so, are we sending SOA down the wrong path at the wrong time?

What do you mean by "we," Kemosabe?


Sorry. I couldn't resist. It's just that I've seen the posts he's talking about, and while I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with recasting SOA's value proposition in light of a bad economy, they have reeked a bit of ... rationalizing.


I probably should have written a summary about this topic, but I didn't because they just felt a bit, well, desperate. A little too much like trying to fit in at the cool kids' table after you've fallen from grace with the popular crowd, a la some John Hughes movie.


Plus, let's face it: SOA started 2008 as king of the hill, but now it's slid into the down part of the hype cycle. And, as I've said before, I just can't see how a bad economy is going to do anything but exacerbate the adoption barriers SOA already faces.


OK, now that I've exonerated myself, I'm possibly now going implicate myself by saying I think McKendrick got it right on this piece.


It's like he got off the recession-panic expressway, took a look at the big picture and decided staying the course with SOA might be the best tactic for businesses long term. After all, he wrote, SOA is a long-term strategy and downturns don't last forever:

SOA is not just a short-term cost-cutting strategy. But even through the good times, that's been one of the issues that has been holding SOA back. To date, SOA has been largely confined to IT optimization projects, and remains there. ... SOA should be a business-led initiative, delivering business results - and spectacular business innovation.

I think that's a great point. Now, whether SOA can actually make that shift is another question. Business still sees SOA as an IT initiative-as McKendrick, an IDC study and Geek & Poke's Oliver Widder all recently noted.


I definitely see how SOA can be strategic. That said, I also think experts overreach on this whole "SOA as a business strategy" thing.


Sometimes, just solving the technical problem is justification enough. As an example, check out this article about the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs adopting SOA.


Both agencies have a major outpatient clinic data-interoperability problem. Booz Allen, a consultant group, studied three options-building on their current approach, but with SOA; replacing the Defense system with the VA's system; or replacing both systems with a commercial solution.


Out of the three options, SOA won because it enables them to use what they already have in place and still solve their data-interoperability problem. They're using a Web-services-based approach.


Dare I point out that SOA is being used to solve an integration problem in the DOD/VA situation, demonstrating yet again that integration can be a good-enough reason - and possibly an ROI - for SOA?

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 26, 2008 11:44 AM Francis Carden Francis Carden  says:
Perhaps the dilemma is that most people (in IT anyway), still believe SOA is strategic and about architecture. In which case, it goes against the grain of "quick wins" and "tactical quick fixes". In fact, I have often had this same argument with IT and I quote IT; "We are not going to 'patch' what we have any more". and "It's these kind of integrations that got us in this mess in the first place".Personally, I don't care whether it's SOA, WOA or whatOA and IT working on re-architiecture is a good thing over time. BUT BUT BUT, they are NOT mutually exclusive. Quick tactical wins are important. No, they are essential to survival. You can now get quick tactical wins with SOA as well as quick tactical wins with integration and really cool tactical/strategic wins with both.Here's a stat to wake everyone up on tactical. For every second you save on each call in a typical 10,000 seat contact center, your business will save about $1.5m a year - tell me you can't tactically shave 10 seconds off for a $15m first year or $75m five year saving. Tactical or Strategic, SOA or not, who cares! Lets just get it done. Reply

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