SOA: 6 Best Practices for Success

By Mel Duvall Print this article Print

You won't get buy-in if the business sees service-oriented architecture as a million-dollar black hole. Job No. 1: CIOs must show the strategic benefits of application integration, advises one SOA consultant.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) has become one of the hottest buzzwords in technology. The technology promises to make integrating disparate applications much easier by providing standard mechanisms to exchange data. But many chief information officers still have difficulty getting buy-in on the technology.

The reason is obvious: Why would business unit managers, for example, want to consider sharing the cost of a big-budget SOA project when all they really want is a simple fix to a particular challenge? An executive may just be looking for, say, his or her sales agents to be able to access warranty records—not to be involved in a million-dollar technology black hole.

The reality, says Gary So, co-author of a new book, Integration and SOA: Concepts, Technologies and Best Practices, is that CIOs need to be able to sell their organizations on the strategic importance of integration. Continuing to follow a point-to-point or application-to-application approach will limit an organization's ability to build on the work achieved and gain economies of scale.

"What you'll end up with down the road is another 20 stovepipe applications with their own integration headaches," says So, who is vice president of technology for application integration software vendor webMethods.

Instead, argue So and co-author Beth Gold-Bernstein, organizations need to take a more strategic approach to integration going so far as to setup a separate entity responsible for integration issues throughout the organization, and to capture and promote best practices. Some organizations, such as Johnson & Johnson, have done just that, setting up Integration Competency Centers, or ICCs.

When it comes to integration, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, So says, there are six critical factors that can lead to success.

  • 1. Link the Integration Competency Center and charter to business objectives. This is particularly critical in the early stages of creating an ICC, when it will be under a close watch. For example, if the business is focused on cost savings, the ICC should aim to make integration processes more efficient and reduce costs.

  • 2. Start small and build on successes. Taking on too much too quickly can in itself lead to failure.

  • 3. Spread the news. For each project, identify progress against goals and communicate those successes. This will increase confidence in the ICC.

  • 4. Build a core competency. Members of the ICC should be regularly involved in integrations projects so they can continue to increase their competency. Outside consultants should be required to transfer their knowledge to the ICC.

  • 5. Define governance policies and procedures. Having defined policies and procedures as well as service level agreements, are critical to managing application and data reuse.

  • 6. Obtain executive support. By its very definition, integration projects will often cross corporate boundaries. Executive support is critical to breaking down any barriers that may arise.

    This article was originally published on 2006-06-22
    Contributing Editor
    Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.

    eWeek eWeek

    Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.