A Strategic Bet Or a Sure Thing
Clearly, the concept of justifying SOA as a necessary strategic move rather than a specific profit generator will be a stretch for some managers.
Executives are always happier with hard dollar justifications, Heffner notes. But executives also make many decisions based on strategic justification.
In some cases, investing staff time and budget dollars in SOA may be a kind of strategic bet. And even the savviest strategic bet may require a leap of faith.
Heffner points to Apples decision to invest in the iPod and iTunes. There came a time when it was a strategic bet. Somebody could have all the data behind them, We think this will sell this much or that. But at some point its just pure speculation. And they had to say, Here you go were going to do this.
On the other hand, in some cases a SOA deployment can indeed be tied to a specific business requirement.
Theres a logistics firm that I talked to that the core enabler, from a business justification standpoint, for doing SOA was in going to the executive management of the board and saying, The core to our business model is flexibility.'" However, the firm found that its IT infrastructure was not built for flexibility. Therefore, they decided: We need to restructure around the idea of flexibility. SOA is the key thing that will help us do that.
This cost justification is probably more straight-forward than that used by many firms mulling a SOA deployment, Heffner notes.
Getting SOA for Free
There are some lucky businesses that get SOA for free.
These are enterprises who have opted for a vendor, like SAP, who is building SOA capability into its platforms. If that company stays with SAP and upgrades, it will automatically gain SOA functionality without a lot of hand wringing about justifying the cost.
This doesnt mean these fortunate firms have utilized SOA to its full potential. Theyll have SOA infrastructure, Heffner says. Truly making the most of this capability is another matter.
Still, this free method is a good choice. Its reasonable if you can get done what you need to for your evolution toward SOA with tools that your vendors provide.
One Word: Evolution
If Heffner were to sum up the key principles for companies to keep in mind as they adopt SOA, he would use one word: evolution.
As firms navigate the myriad challenges of SOA deployment, Everything comes back to: How are we evolving our applications? How are we evolving our platform? How are we evolving with the markets maturity to do SOA? How are we evolving with our own maturity, our processes, our governance?
All these questions dont need to answered in the initial plan. Instead, its a step at a time, judged by the business value that we accomplish each step of the way.