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Selling SOA to the Business

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Richard Veryard, a software industry analyst for the CBDi Forum, ponders the question: Do we have to sell SOA? If yes, how should it be done? He also talks about the cost and ROI of SOA.

As Richard Veryard points out right from the beginning, SOA marketing "involves two-way communication [...] - this entails listening and responding to what the business wants. And that means what a particular business specifically wants, not just vague generalizations like 'adaptability' and 'customer satisfaction'". He does so in reaction to Steve Jones' article "SOA needs Marketing", which clearly states that SOA has to be sold to the business:

Well guess what, the think about trying to communicate your SOA strategy, service repository, service or whatever is... a marketing job. You've got to think about it as a core part of your SOA approach and develop an actual marketing plan.

The question if SOA has to be sold to the business directly leads to the question "whether it makes sense to measure the ROI of SOA". John Devadoss discusses this question and says that on the one hand "Service Oriented Architectures are [merely] a means to an end", and that "any project, regardless of how poorly organized, how over-budget, and how miserably aligned with the business requirements can claim a good ROI, as long as the project costs are amortized over a long-enough period of time". On the other hand the question is, "can the business survive long enough to realize the return?".

John Evdemon expresses his doubts that it makes sense to measure the ROI of SOA without a realistic "time frame":

ROI is not an exact science and will vary from one organization to another (much like SOA itself). There are many ROI models available, some more complex than others. The best ROI models I have seen are relatively straightforward. Overly complicated ROI models may require spending more time maintaining the model instead of working on the project to be measured. When it comes to ROI use realistic data points and time frames to determine the value an implementation may have generated. SOA ROI requires patience - benefits may take a year or more to be properly recognized.

So, do we have to sell SOA at all? Does the business need to know about SOA? Nick Malik has a blunt answer:

I’ve decided that the best way to “Sell SOA” to the business is not to sell SOA to the business. Let’s talk about the asthetics, the features, the speed and reliability, the automation of their business processes to allow them to focus and innovate where it counts. Let’s not talk about standard parts.

If SOA is a means to an end and if we don't have to sell SOA, then is it free? Loraine Lawson does not think so:

Much of the benefits of SOA — agility, quicker deployments, less cost for development — won’t come immediately. And even if you could reap that ROI immediately, there’s still the credibility problem. You see, IT has promised all of this before. And in recent years, the business has grown impatient with spending money on technology solutions that promise to fix business problems, only to find next year IT wants more money, again to fix the same problems.

Richard Veryard concludes that although SOA might be free and there might not be a need to sell SOA regarding financial aspects, we'll have to convince the business to play along and make them accept the demands of an SOA undertaking:

[...] it doesn't mean we don't have to sell SOA to the business. SOA makes demands on the business - perhaps not financial or technological ones, but demands associated with architecture and governance. For SOA to be successful (let alone "free"), the business may need to consider certain structural opportunities, and to engage with IT requirements in new ways.

The whole discussion about the costs, ROI or marketing of SOA boils down to one thing: Business and IT have to adopt a common mindset - a service-oriented mindset.

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