Most people credit The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell with making tipping point a catchphrase. Gladwell's 2000 book The Tipping Point popularized the term to describe that magical moment when a mere blip on society's radar suddenly becomes an irresistible trend.
As Gladwell readily admits, the term comes from epidemiology -- the study of disease patterns. It refers to the point when the number of infections reaches a critical mass that triggers an epidemic. "It's the boiling point," Gladwell says on his Web site. "It's the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards."
I mention this because it appears a tipping point may be under way for SOA (service-oriented architecture).
Take, for example, the number of times SOA is mentioned in the news media and other published reports. A search of LexisNexis shows only three such mentions from 1999, but 67 in 2001, and more than 3,000 last year -- a proverbial "hockey stick" growth.
To learn more, InfoWorld and IDG Research recently conducted a study of SOA. According to the study, IT and business executives today are nearly equally divided into two camps. Approximately 52 percent say they are familiar with SOA and its benefits, which include better integration, lower costs, and the ability to respond more quickly to new business needs. The other 48 percent say they know little or nothing about the subject.
Although there's no previous survey with which to compare these findings, it's a safe bet that the in-the-know camp has been growing, meaning the proportion of executives who understand SOA must have recently crossed the 50-percent threshold -- another potential indication of a tipping point.
Interestingly, those who "get" SOA also rate it as important. Some 42 percent believe SOA will be a critical or high priority at their companies in the next 12 months. That figure rises to 61 percent when executives are asked to project three to five years into the future. And of those who are involved with SOA projects today, 40 percent will spend at least $500,000 -- with one in four spending $1 million or more -- this year.
That information is especially timely given InfoWorld's upcoming SOA events.
The SOA Executive Forums -- you can register at SOAExecutiveForum.com -- will be held in San Jose, Calif., on May 5 and in New York on May 17. The meetings will cover both the business and the technological steps necessary for success with SOA and will offer methodologies for judging SOA's ROI.
In other words, these meetings will help the 52 percent who are in the know to move ahead faster -- and perhaps bring a few of the other 48 percent up to speed.