Selling SOA to the CEO

IBM's Sandy Carter discusses a list of ways to promote service-oriented architecture for executive endorsement.

You could say that behind every successful service-oriented architecture is a CEO. With its promise of using existing

technology to more closely align information technology with business goals, SOAs have proven to help companies realize greater efficiencies, cost savings and productivity.

Still, as many IT managers have learned, without executive endorsement, an SOA will be relegated to the confines of IT as opposed to being recognized as an organization-wide business strategy. While no two organizations are exactly alike, there are consistent themes that arise -- and pitfalls to avoid -- when aiming for approval to build an SOA.

For those many IT leaders who are facing the seemingly daunting challenge of presenting the importance and value of an SOA strategy to the executive suite, following are ten tips for selling SOA to the CEO.

1. Don't call it SOA: explain the value and benefits in business terms that reflect the organization's goals -- such as cost reduction, productivity, competitive advantage, etc. -- before diving into a technical conversation.

2. Vision, not version: outline the immediate and long-term results from this strategy while avoiding discussions about specific version numbers.

3. Build consensus throughout the company: prove the value of SOA through small test projects conducted with volunteer departments in the organization. Make sure to include those department leaders when you later roll out the SOA.

4. Start small yet live large: when selecting those small test projects, choose to integrate and automate those business processes that can have the most widespread, positive impact across the organization.

5. Ixnay on the TLA: while it's easy to get caught up in the technical jargon that is fully understood among peers, remember that three letter acronyms (TLA) can sound as eloquent as pig Latin when trying to convince your CEO of a major new strategic undertaking.

6. Get to the powerful points: without relying on complex slides that can deter from the true purpose of the meeting.

7. Conviction and prediction: articulate goals for each step along the SOA path. By publicly stating and achieving realistic goals for the organization based on an SOA -- increasing productivity or decreasing costs by XX percent -- you can bolster confidence in the project and overall strategy.

8. Reference third party validation: cite analyst data on the growth and adoption of service oriented architectures and point to relevant SOA success stories within your industry (and by your competitors).

9. The close: SOA what? Outline specific before-and-after scenarios of the impact of SOA on your particular organization to help disarm any naysayer and gain CEO approval.

10. Qualify and quantify: set goals, track performance and refine methodologies at every step along the way. Be sure to share the results with interested parties on a regular basis to demonstrate the success of your company's SOA journey.

The opportunity to evangelize SOA to company executives is rare. To make the most of your extended elevator pitch, remember to articulate business benefits, reiterate bottom line results and illustrate the company-wide value of an SOA.

About the author

Sandy Carter is the vice president for SOA and WebSphere strategy, channels and marketing at IBM


This was first published in January 2007

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