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Smaller technology projects avail where full-fledged SOA can stall

Rich Seeley, News Writer

When introducing the service-oriented approach within an organization, the software architect does not have to take on a "boil-the-ocean" implementation, according to an industry analyst who has looked at the current state of enterprise architecture.

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Gaining momentum with SOA initiatives involves working on the right one.
Mike Rollings
senior analystBurton Group LLC

In fact, small can be beautiful in service-oriented architecture (SOA), said Mike Rollings, senior analyst, Burton Group.

An early project does not necessarily have to be a full SOA implementation to showcase the application development philosophy, Rollings said. A successful architect instead may start out conducting analysis to identify the services that support business processes, he said.

Architects can gain or lose momentum based on choices they make in selecting SOA projects, emphasized Rollings, who has just authored a report on "Establishing and Maintaining Enterprise Architecture Momentum." Because SOA is still a relatively new approach to application development, services architects need to select projects that demonstrate business value from the get-go, he said.

"Gaining momentum with SOA initiatives involves working on the right one," the analyst said. The selection of the right project includes making sure it not only has business value but is doable given the resources the architect has, he explained.

"If I have a small team of SOA architects, I need to recognize that I can only staff one project to really start to try out this technology," said Rollings.

Selecting the right project goes beyond finding one that might be interesting, Rollings explained. In his view, the architect needs to look at the level of support the project might receive from both the IT and business side. If key groups in the enterprise are reluctant to get involved in the project, it may not be the best choice.

The project that has the potential to build momentum for SOA within the enterprise may not be initially the most visible, Rollings said. Services architects need to look for these diamonds in the rough. Such outlying projects may be marked by sponsors who are willing to work with the software architect to identify core services. These may in turn showcase SOA while contributing directly to business efforts, he indicated.

"Maybe they are not going down the path of full SOA but they can still benefit from the aid you can give them in doing a functional analysis of business processes," the analyst said. This is the beginning of momentum for SOA because it demonstrates the potential value of analyzing business processes and looking at applications in terms of services that support those processes.

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Architects: SOA masters or lost in translation

This is where communication and leadership skills are as important for architects as technical skills because introducing SOA is in part a promotional and educational process.

"You tend to pick and chose the opportunities based on the ones that are also going to get you more exposure, more ability to promote new ways of thinking when you're trying to change people's perspectives, but all the while making sure you're driving to a business outcome," Rollings said.

Achieving a positive business outcome through the service-oriented approach, even in small projects, is the most successful way to building momentum in an organization, the analyst said.


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