The Business of SOA

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This week, IBM announced a survey of its clients -- conducted at IMPACT 2008 -- that showed that not only were half of them happily deploying SOAs, but 42 percent said SOA was the company's top spending priority this year.


What's more, most of them are pretty darn pleased with SOA -- the survey reports 96 percent of customers are happy with their SOA project, describing it as "very successful" or "somewhat successful," which, in my humble opinion, can mean either "yeah, it worked out pretty well" or "it stunk, but I'm an optimist and it wasn't all bad," depending on your inflection.


So either Anne Thomas Manes is looking for SOA success in all the wrong places, or IBM customers are unusually happy with SOA. Or, as a third very possible option, there's a disconnect in how IBM and Manes define SOA.


Okay -- so we may never know who's happy with SOA and who's not, since it's so darn hard to define SOA. But the survey did reveal something else, mentioned in the press release, that's significant regardless of how you define SOA:


Seventy-three percent of customers indicated their CEO understands the business value of SOA.


Wow. That's impressive. And it may help explain why, despite the economy, AMR Research and, more recently, analysts interviewed by TechTarget say SOA spending has not slowed this year.


Just this week, SOA expert and StrikeIron CEO David Linthicum wrote a post, "How to Sell SOA, Part I," which opened by telling readers it might be unnecessary to do so:

"Many organizations out there don't really have to sell SOA. They instead understand that the hype is the driver, and in essence leverage the thousands of articles and books on the topic to sell this architectural pattern."

Nonetheless, outside of IBM's clients, apparently many IT divisions are finding they do need to sell SOA. Linthicum's posts, part I and II, examines four key concepts you should follow to gain executive approval for SOA cost, which he cautions "quickly goes well into the millions."


I have to say, that would scare me to death if I were a CIO. No matter how much support you may have now, when you spend that much money, somebody's going to come looking for an ROI -- and thus far, no one's really sure how to determine SOA's ROI, and some (Gartner springs to mind) say it's not even a relevant question. Yeah, well, maybe -- but Gartner won't be sitting next to you when the board of directors starts asking pointed questions about what they got for all that SOA money.


That's why it's a good idea to think now about how you'll measure SOA's gains and, hopefully, ROI -- because eventually, this someone always wants numbers on these costly enterprise-wide IT projects.


Since there's not a lot out there about measuring ROI on SOA, definitely consider attending ebizQ's free Webinar, "SOA for Greater ROI at State Street Bank," on June 24 at 12 p.m., EST.


The senior vice president and chief information security officer of State Street Bank will discuss how SOA helped performance and achieve financial results at his bank and how it could be applied to other financial services firms. He'll be followed by IBM's Sandy Carter, who will make a case for IBM's SMART SOA approach, which IBM says can help companies achieve a fast ROI despite the slow economy.


You'll need to sign up as a gold member, which is also free.