How the Best-in-Class Manage SOA Governance

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Recently, IT Business Edge's Susan Hall interviewed SOA expert and Gartner analyst Roy Schulte about managing expectations around SOA. His off-the-cuff advice: The key to happiness is low expectations.

He was kidding, of course. He went on to explain that most problems with SOA were not technical, but were governance- or organizational-related. Has anyone else noticed that always seems to be the answer when something fails in IT?

But SOA governance is pretty darn tricky. I stumbled across this article from 2006 that did an excellent job of explaining what SOA governance is, and I thought it was actually very insightful into why it's also so darn hard. It was written by Gary So, a vice president in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer at webMethods. As So explained it, SOA governance actually requires five types of governance:

  • Architecture governance: This is Enterprise Architecture 101, but if no one's watching, SOA initiatives can falter from a lack of cohesiveness and planning. I suspect this is why we're already having to discuss federated SOA.
  • Service governance: As I said, the article is from 2006, but the article noted that SOA meant IT had to manage a portfolio of services, which is much different than managing a portfolio of individual applications.
  • Design-time governance: The article defined this as making sure the services adhere to standards, such as Web Services Interoperability standards. It's primarily of interest to business analysts, architects and developers.
  • Run-time governance: This monitors service-level agreements, security and other issues that might pop up during the operation of services.
  • Change-time governance: The article denoted this as a separate function, though some might argue it goes under service governance. The point is that service changes and that has to be governed, especially since changes might affect business partners and business functions, and not just the applications used by the services.

And more recently, SOA experts have added another dimension: Data governance. Neil Macehiter wrote a good roundup on that issue.

That's a lot of governance balls in the air. Fortunately, according to a recent Aberdeen Group report on SOA governance, there seems to be a payoff for all that monitoring.

The report looked at the SOA governance practices that separate best-in-class companies from the industry averages and laggards. Thanks to better SOA governance initiatives, best-in-class companies were more likely to report decreased operating costs -- the class mean was 23 percent decrease in costs - increased IT/business alignment and better business agility.

The 22-page report contains a lot of good information, but my favorite section is the best-in-class PACE model, which outlines the pressures best-in-class companies cited, the actions they took, the capabilities they used and the technology enablers they used, which included, among other things:

  • A registry capable of dynamic routing of service requests.
  • ETL or other transformation tools.
  • Metadata management.
  • XML firewalls an SOA appliances.
  • SOA policy management and enforcement software or hardware.

One key differentiator: Best-in-class companies focused on obtaining executive support and financial commitments to SOA early on. They also incorporated SOA acceleration technologies in their governance strategies, which allowed them to show an earlier payoff, thus providing more business justification for funding:

By focusing on tightening the implementation time frame, two-thirds of Best-in-Class organizations (66 percent) reported that as a direct result of their SOA governance initiatives, IT staff time available for strategic work increased; an average increase in strategically-focused IT work 127 percent greater than Average organizations experienced.

As usual, Aberdeen includes recommendations for industry laggards, average companies and those rare best-in-class companies.


This report was published in August, but has temporarily been unlocked for free download. You'll have to register with Aberdeen first, but that's a simple process. If you're not an Aberdeen client, and you are engaged with SOA at any level, check it out before it's locked down again.


In other integration news: If your company uses SAP, you might want to check out "Insights from Applying SOA and Integration in Global SAP Rollout," a free webinar scheduled for 11 a.m. EST Tuesday (Oct. 30). The event will look at best practices for an SAP rollout and information about how SOA can help integrate legacy application with SAP. You'll hear how two global 500 companies managed their own global rollouts, as well. HCL Middleware and SOA Group, an India-based global IT service provider, is hosting the event.