"The broader view of SOA is that it's an application and system design environment" that can enable greater business agility, says Sandra Rogers, an analyst at IDC. But this broader role requires the services to be well designed and well thought-out, both as representative elements of the business and as components of business processes.
One approach is to base SOA on "dynamic" services that can be reused and built to work with multiple business applications. But to do this well, IT staffers need to pay close attention to how the code is managed. Management tools and repositories are key.
Whatever you do, don't skimp on planning. Companies that have changed the way they think about and present SOA as a suitable technology have more successful SOA rollouts, says Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at Burton Group in Midvale, Utah.
She advocates an interesting way of doing that. "Discussion of SOA should move underground. IT groups should stop trying to sell SOA to the business. Instead, they should just apply SOA principles to specific projects they execute," says Manes.
In other words, IT groups need to exploit SOA's more subtle advantages. These benefits "ensure that the software is more manageable, more maintainable" and easier to integrate, which in the long run makes IT more cost-effective and agile, she says.
Her bottom line: Don't just talk about SOA; show that it works.
MassMutual's Kim agrees. "One reason we were successful was we standardized the architectural process five or six years ago. The architects must also understand the business, and we had that foundation -- both business and technology at the company. The board of directors paid attention, and we had the executive support."
But IT managers need to be careful. "As you build out your SOA, you have to continually remind yourself that SOA is not about the technology ," Cigna's Bergeron says. "All too often, IT gets caught up in the 'technology for the sake of technology' trap and loses sight of the business objectives that need to drive our work. With all the products, technology and standards that are available to support SOA, it's an alluring distraction."
Webster is a freelance writer in Providence, R.I.
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld 's print edition. It's an edited version of an article that first ran on Computerworld.com.
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