CIO - Several recent articles have discussed why many service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives are failing. In early July, when Burton Group vice president and research director Anne Thomas Manes presented at the her firm's annual Catalyst conference, she said that most SOA failures are more often the result of people and cultural issues than technology problems. I totally agree with her assessment, as I have been blogging about this same issue for a long time.
So now we know who to blame for failed SOA initiatives. It's the people, stupid! But just why do people make SOA fail? Let me count the ways.
1. They fail to explain SOA's business value.
One of the most common mistakes IT people make is that they approach SOA purely from a technology perspective. They spent a great deal of time and effort on architecture, governance and vendor assessments, which is good, but they forget that SOA needs to solve real business problems. So they spend a huge amount of time and money building out the architecture -- only to find that when they are done, nobody in the business understands the benefits and is not interested in the technology.
Recommendation: Start with real business problems first. This is why BPM (business process management) is the "killer app" for SOA. By improving and automating business processes, BPM solves several business problems. It provides visibility into operational performance, enhances agility by allowing the business to change their processes dynamically without IT involvement, eliminates waste -- thus reducing costs -- and much more. Start by showing the business how SOA will solve real business problems first. Then address the technology issues.
2. They underestimate the impact of organizational change.
As with any transformational initiative, resistance to change is a project-killer. SOA brings massive amounts of change to an organization, especially if the organization does not have a well-established enterprise architecture in place. Fear of the unknown is the greatest contributor of resistance to change. People need to understand WIIFM ("What's in it for me?") and why changing their ways is good for both them and the company. The challenge is that people at different levels within the organization are affected in different ways. Each level of the business has concerns that need to be addressed and that must be solved at an individual level.
Recommendation: Create an organizational change management (OCM) plan. I would go one step further and hire an external OCM expert to help the leadership team of the SOA initiative deal with change. I am a big fan of John Kotter's eight-step methodology.
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