SOA still hindered by lack of justification

CIOs are still Responsible for selling service-oriented architecture projects to business managers, according to a survey commissioned by BEA – and nearly four projects in 10 are suffering because they are hard to justify financially

The survey, carried out by research firm GCR Custom Research LLC, examined companies with a minimum US$1 billion revenue. It found that the CIO was the sponsor for SOA projects in 22 per cent of firms, with CTOs following a close second at 18 per cent. Line of business managers sponsored SOA projects in only eight per cent of companies.

Even though the CIO and CTO were the main project sponsors, almost 60 per cent of SOA funding came from business solutions. CIOs may sponsor SOA projects but they usually raise funding from business departments, said Scott Evans, vice-president of research and analytics at GCR.

Evans said some CIOs he has spoken with (outside the survey, which was Web-based) have decided not to engage in SOA projects. “They’re saying ‘I don’t know if it makes business objective sense for me to engage in SOA at the moment.’ The extension is that those that are engaging in SOA are doing so because they have been able to make the business case.”

Forty per cent of SOA projects were impeded due to difficulty with financial justification, indicating that a large proportion of user departments need more convincing to hand over money for SOA initiatives. As technology infrastructure projects, SOA initiatives are largely invisible to users.

“They still find it hard to justify why you’d need an SOA in place, and one of the reasons for that is that as an industry we need to come back with many more proof points from customers that have succeeded already,” said Martin Percival, senior technical evangelist at the SOA tools vendor.

Survey respondents outlined their expectations for reuse, which is a major component of SOA, but was originally proposed as a benefit of object-oriented techniques such as CORBA in the early 1990s. One company in three expected to reuse between 21 to 30 per cent of their services, with another one in three expecting to get more reuse than this from their SOA projects.

Curtis Gittens, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research, is skeptical about reuse levels, and dismisses Percival’s claim that people are expecting to see a return on investment within two projects.

“SOA is not a technological solution. You can’t say that you’ll start getting code reuse, and instantly become more agile. None of that is true. The CIO can’t point to a button and say ‘press that and you’ll start seeing savings,’” he says.

Instead, service-oriented architecture is primarily concerned with business change, Gittens said.

Business process re-engineering is inherently bound to SOA and should be considered before addressing the technological changes within an SOA project. “The tools should only be purchased after all the hard work has been done on the business side,” he said. “They will then have a better, scalable, truly reusable and agile implementation.”

Almost half of all companies were looking at implementing between one and 50 services using SOA techniques over the next year, said the report. Twenty-four per cent planned to implement between 51 to 100, with 22 per cent expecting to exceed that number.

Three in four of the 151 companies surveyed were in finance, insurance and real estate, communications and telecommunications or manufacturing. The survey included both North American and European respondents.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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