The Need for SOA Governance

Currently in London and revisiting some of my favorite sights. When I start approaching the Houses of Parliament I start to ponder the need for governance in our day to day life but also in my professional life.

I see time and time again companies getting frustrated with SOA. These companies initially built a pilot project which identifiable and reusable services. BUT they are not seeing  the same demonstrated SOA benefits once they have deployed a fully enterprise developed SOA project.

While pilot projects achieved a level of reuse, they have tended to be within one division, but as soon as a project boundary crosses multiple divisions, additional and new challenges are encountered. 

Over the years I have assisted many enterprises to overcome their SOA challenges. Here are just some of the challenges I have encountered.

Standards ProliferationMaturity of Web Services Standards
Standards ComplianceService Sprawl
Lack of Tools and InfrastructureRegistry Sprawl
Business/IT RelationshipSOA Portfolio Management
Multiple Siloed SOAs“Right-Click Architecture”
Lack of Best PracticesCulture Change
Organization FrictionChange Management
Confusing PrioritiesLack of Appropriate Operational Processes
Enterprise vs LOB DecisionsLack of Skills & Experiences
Lack of SOA RoadmapHype vs Reality
FundingTrack and Communicate Progress
Charge-Back ModelsPolicy Enforcement
Lack of Service Engineering ApproachFragile SOA Implementation

For Enterprise SOA to be successful, enterprises must navigate though political and technical obstacles to cross several internal and external boundaries. Enterprise SOA services by their very nature are distributed throughout the enterprise and a level of boundary crossing and collaboration is required for application teams to develop composite Services and to utilize these Services. As soon as multiple lines of business (LOB) are involved there are collaboration challenges and siloed SOA pilot project benefits are not fully translated at the multiple-LOB level.

One of the key disciplines to assist in addressing these challenges is SOA Governance. While traditional governance has been a round a long time, it has been seen as a slow, paper-driven process. SOA has heightened the need and importance of having a formal SOA governance model that eases the transition of an enterprise to SOA by providing a means to reduce risk, maintain business alignment, drive a cultural change and show business value of SOA investments through a combination of people, process, and technology.

Many of the early definitions of SOA were very technology-focused, and the differences between SOA and web services technology were blurred.

A major side effect of this is the misconception that SOA Governance can be solved by technology alone. Effective SOA Governance requires equal focus on people, process, and enabling technology. In addition there is a misconception that SOA Governance is limited to governing the lifecycle of services from creation through deployment.

While many enterprises view SOA Governance as an afterthought, it is important that SOA Governance is designed and deployed as soon as possible.

There is a misconception that an enterprise does not require SOA Governance until their portfolio contains 50 Services. But if an enterprise cannot execute governance over 5 Services, then 50 Services will be far too overwhelming.

While SOA Governance is required from day 1, SOA Governance does not have to be heavyweight but can be lightweight with part-time virtual roles, or additional agenda items. SOA Governance should be deployed in an iterative and incremental manner. This allows SOA Governance to grow with your SOA initiative. If treated as an afterthought, SOA Governance will require more significant change management

Benefits of SOA Governance

As with all governance disciplines, SOA Governance has its challenges, but the benefits are more than worth the effort.

  • Improved Decision Making – Making bad decisions or taking too long to make the right ones, costs time and money that your organization cannot afford. The right decisions require visibility into the right information. Without a governance registry-repository it is challenging to answer SOA Governance questions with any confidence. SOA Governance defines the process by which you collect and disseminate the necessary information to make critical IT investment decisions. The right solution facilitates a closed-loop information exchange between all of your stakeholders to ensure timely, accurate decisions on key business issues.
  • Effectively Manage Change – With SOA, the speed and ease with which you can affect change improves substantially. However, the ability to move that fast is only an advantage when you understand the impact of change. Even the tiniest modification in the SOA can impact your entire organization. Without the ability to understand and manage change, you are effectively blind to its potential impact. SOA Governance requires visibility into the relationships and inter-dependencies of an organization’s SOA components so you can foresee the impact of change. This visibility is essential in reducing the risk associated with change and ensuring desired business results.
  • Enable Control – Policies need to be governed in much the same way as SOA Services. Organizations need visibility into the policies that exist, as well as the targets to which they are applied. Policies provides a mechanism to control the behavior of assets and provide decision-making guidelines for individuals.
  • Foster Enterprise-wide Collaboration – A successful SOA requires seamless collaboration among all stakeholders. SOA Governance is instrumental in fostering that interaction by defining roles and responsibilities and clearly articulating a role-relevant perspective for each participant especially the IT executive, so they can understand how their actions relate to the big picture. Through cross-functional collaboration, SOA Governance makes it easier to proactively identify and resolve issues and prevent negative impacts on development and production timelines.
  • Track SOA Investments and Returns – Understanding the landscape of existing IT investments, future IT needs, and their associated financial impact has always been an important challenge – even more so with SOA. Such an architecture shifts away from monolithic applications to an environment where individual services get combined on the fly to form dynamic composite applications. In this situation, your investment decisions rely upon a much more granular view of the infrastructure. With SOA, the focus moves from the application down to the underlying Services, business processes, and other assets that comprise the application. SOA Governance tracks and analyzes IT performance at the component level to empower you with pinpoint management and control over investments. SOA Governance uses this granular view to determine the value of individual services as part of the calculation of overall ROI.

So I decided to build a reference SOA Governance framework that enterprise could adopt, customize, and then deploy incrementally. This framework defines not only the technology aspects but more importantly the people and process aspects. I will cover this framework in future blogs.

Good Luck,Now Go Architect Govern…