CIO involvement with SOA is a bit of a chicken/egg quandary. Are SOA implementations failing because CIOs don't get involved? Or are CIOs smart not to get involved with a failing trend? It's tricky to tell who failed first.
To be perfectly honest, if I were a CIO and I'd drug my feet on SOA, I'd be pretty darned pleased with myself this week -- particularly after reading "Are You Being Played in the SOA Game Plan?"
PCWorld.com ran the piece on Monday, and it's a great headline. But I read it with reservations, because I know there's nothing more thrilling for a journalist than to reveal that someone's getting played. If journalists are biased -- and, really, everyone has several biases -- then this is the big one for reporters. They live for exposing people, places and things.
During my tech journalism tenure, I've learned that most technology trends do, indeed, follow that infamous Gartner hype cycle -- and ultimately, they emerge from it somewhat successful. So, I've grown just as suspicious of the "Wow, it's a rip-off" articles as I have the "Wow, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread" headlines.
Sure enough, the article is actually not an evaluation of whether SOA works. Instead, the news here is that vendors are backing off the SOA hard sell.
I was especially interested in Gartner Research Associate Frank Kenney's remark that "SOA is marketed and sold totally different outside the U.S." Apparently, in the U.S., vendors focus on reuse, but in South America, South Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, SOA's all about business processes -- which I think most experts would agree is a more accurate portrayal of SOA's long-term value.
If you keep reading, it quickly becomes clear that no one in this article is suggesting you're getting played or that you're smart to avoid SOA. In fact, it's just the opposite. Larry Fulton, senior analyst at Forrester Research, told PCWorld.com:
"... I would be concerned about stopping SOA adoption entirely, since there is no guarantee that the competition will do the same thing, and that could put you at a serious disadvantage."
The truth is, there's a lot of bad news out there about SOA, and I don't blame CIOs or any executive who's confused. You have the Burton Group's recent report on SOA failures. There are plenty of statistics to suggest SOA isn't working.
SOA is not what I'd call a safe bet by any stretch of the imagination. No wonder CIOs are distancing themselves from SOA. But in the long run, that's probably a bad plan.
Fortunately, as the analysts in the article and ZDNet's Joe McKendrick pointed out, this marketing shift may mean you now have more negotiating power with SOA vendors.
In other words, you might be able to save a little money now that the hype heat is off -- and certainly, cheaper SOA could make supporting SOA more palatable for business and tech leaders.
Here's how the article says this shift might work to your advantage:
- Vendors are trying new pricing models -- both for services and development - that will better match the long time it takes to introduce and implement SOA.
- You'll have the most negotiating power in the early stages, because vendors realize now they need to get their foot in the door early.
- Because vendors know it's important to get in early and stay in, you can expect them to help ensure their tools work with your SOA -- and to help you fix it if there's a problem.
That said, SOA hasn't fallen so far into the trough of disillusionment that you can expect savings on architects or consulting work. Oh, well. You can't have everything.