Four Keys for SOA Success, Even in Government

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This month's issue of Public CIO includes a lengthy feature on SOA implementations and what it takes to succeed. Most of the information applies to non-government agencies, but it also addresses the unique challenges of SOA in government's siloed, stodgy environment.


So what does it take to succeed in SOA? Here are the key success points I gleaned from the piece:


1. Define SOA. Too many CIOs have a vague understanding of SOA. Then, vendors walk in and say SOA can fix this or that. What you need to remember, experts say, is that SOA is a new design principle. In and of itself, SOA is not a solution to a particular problem.


2. Find business partners. According to one survey, 28 percent of Department of Defense workers said interagency turfs are the top barrier to SOA. Silos are a problem in many organizations, but in government, silos are just the way things are. The goal here isn't to find someone who can force SOA on other divisions. The goal is to find an advocate who will help you implement SOA in one department or area. Once you've succeeded there, it'll be easier to sell SOA throughout the organization.


3. Aim for critical mass. You have to begin small with SOA, but to get big results, you'll need to have more than one success. I love the analogy one CTO uses in this article. He compares SOA to a phone book: A book with one address is useless. You need a lot of phone numbers to have a phone book. SOA is the same way. You can't build a few services and expect success. But if you keep growing your services, you will reach a point where you reap the benefits.


4. Franchise. Use your successful projects as models to show what can be done with SOA. Identify agencies that can benefit from your work and offer your SOA services as a start for their implementation, even if you must reach out to other branches, organizations, counties or states. Any successes you can create will help win over others in your own organization.