Wednesday, September 05, 2007

SOA is a change programme, not just technology

Now Andrew McAfee is a smart guy and I agree with what he is saying when he says SOA is Sometimes about technology but I would say that the technology is never the most important thing. I've made my point before about the technology focus problem but I'd like to take that one stage further and say what I think is the most important thing People and in particular the cultural and organisations changes that are important in an organisations successful adoption of SOA.

With any technology and process change programme there are two choices
  1. Change the technology and process to fit the business
  2. Change the business to fit the technology and process
Now anyone who has seen large scale package programmes will tell you that the later is much cheaper and likely to succeed. The same is true of SOA. Adopting SOA should be seen in the same way as those large scale package implementations this means there are two clear streams of change that need to be thought about
  1. The process and people changes to ensure successful adoption
  2. What the technology can do, and fitting the process and people to that
SOA is about shifting thinking away from big projects and towards programmes of service projects. This means that you need to change your project approval and delivery methods to fit a programme mentality. It means that your teams need to be set up as small service projects that hit the agile sweet spot and creating programme management boards that oversee the direction (but not the day to day management).

This also means that you'll want to change your seating plans so the business and architects are sitting together and talking together as a normal part of the day. You'll want to change your requirements process to be based around services, the testing process and the deployment and monitoring processes.

The technology is about understanding what there is now, and just coping with that. Don't build your own for the sake of it creating a death by technology problem just cope with what is there are look to the standards and roadmaps to understand the evolution that you have to go under. Refocus IT towards the business goals and language and learn what is really required and important and what is technology for its own sake.

Successful SOA adoption should be thought of as a change programme in the same way as vanilla SAP or Oracle is thought of. Get the technology in where it delivers value and change the organisation and process (in this case the IT delivery organisation and processes) to make it successful.

Adopting SOA technologies and not changing the practice ensure that the benefits will either be minimal or you will get the equivalent of a heavily customised package, massive overspend, reduced benefits and a nightmare upgrade cycle.

Too often I see people lob in the technology first and never have an SOA change programme. The smart companies are the ones that look at people, process, culture and technology as one thing and recognise that the largest impact comes from changing IT to fit this new approach rather than treating it just as a technology solution.

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