IT Management

In a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)-enabled enterprise, services and servers are a common good; they aren’t “owned” by a line of business or technology team. However, it’s possible to solve the technological challenges of SOA and still fail because the organization isn’t in sync with SOA design; organizational dynamics matter. The share-everything compliance challenge is just the beginning; the structure of an organization probably will have to change. Learn how you can transform your company into a Service-Oriented Organization (SOO) to reap SOA success.

The Goal

SOA is more than the flavor of the month; it’s the fabric of success for innovative enterprises such as Amazon and eBay. But SOA is really just an architectural construct, a framework and vision of a way for IT to implement business requests. To be service-oriented, a business process is assembled from a library of services, which are repeatable business tasks.

This architecture provides a clear vision on which to build an IT infrastructure and new applications. But, in most cases, the effect of SOA on an organization—its people—is overlooked. The current hierarchical structured organization doesn’t map well to the open, dynamic nature of SOA. It isn’t flexible enough to respond to the rapidly changing business world. The hierarchy tends to lead to isolated operations in the organization. Work silos compete for prestige, recognition, leadership and projects, with the result being no cross-functional area teamwork. As leadership training coach Dr. Dennis Romig notes, “1-1=0.” This means that when teams compete, the result is often a negative; the efforts can cancel out each other. (See his article, “Leading Side by Side to Bust Silos and Cross-Functional Competitiveness,” Sidebyside.com, 2003.)

With a silo:

• Information is tightly held
• Relationships are constrained
• Resources aren’t shared
• Team goals supersede organizational goals.

SOA is inherently a share-everything world. Services and resources are a corporate common good, a significant departure from the way applications were managed in the past. But does the organization support a share-everything world? You need an SOO to match your SOA implementation.

The Challenges

Many companies have already overcome SOA technical problems, so let’s focus on the organizational challenges. Some of the issues apply to almost any change, but some are more SOA-specific.

Change is hard: Most change initiatives fail. According to one study, no more than 33 percent of all major initiatives survived beyond the first implementation (see Pat Morley, “Research Findings on Program Failure and Success,” Man in the Mirror “Weekly Briefing,” 2004). The SOO isn’t an easy design to accomplish; it changes everything and change is hard. People and organizations resist change. Yet, many viable strategies and architectures have failed because the organization wasn’t able to remodel itself to successfully fully exploit the new technologies. SOA is no different; as painful as change is, there’s no way to avoid it.

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