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Setting up COE for SOA

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Centers of excellence (COE) are proven ways to successfully introduce new architectures, technologies, approaches etc. They proved to be instrumental in many companies for successful EAI/B2B implementations. Ravi Subramaniam recently explored the process of setting up a center of excellence for SOA

An SOA COE is an organization that assimilates and promotes best practices, knowledge, and pragmatic leading-edge solutions in the area of SOA. The COE introduces rigor and discipline across various SOA initiatives and provides benefits by building skills and competency to sustain successful execution of increasingly complex SOA initiatives

According to Ravi, the creation of SOA COE involves the following main activities:

  • Definition of Mission statement, charter and goals. Although actual definitions can differ between organization , answering of the questions below can make them clear and precise:
    • What business problems is the SOA COE expected to solve? A typical answer might be something like To promote accelerated time to market for new business processes or services, thereby improving a return on investment.
    • What technical problems is the SOA COE expected to solve? The answer might be To provide guidance on technical standards and best practices, and ensure an architecture that suits the long-term needs of the organization. Additionally, the CIO might indicate that it's to serve as a governance mechanism to ensure a correct approach for SOA.
    • What's the broad scope of activities for the SOA COE? It might be Activities spanning the life cycle of services from envisioning to creation to retirement. Active involvement in selecting technology standards, evaluating and selecting tools, macro and micro design, development, testing, implementation, reuse, and security aspects.
    • How will the SOA COE interact with project teams?
    • How will the SOA COE carry out governance activities?
    • How will the SOA COE enforce quality standards and adherence to design guidelines and best practices?
  • Defining of the COE organizational structure. It is vital for COE to have both business and technical representation from all company’s major lines of business. The COE is also staffed with full-time IT architects who are knowledgeable and experienced in areas such as:
    • Enterprise architecture
    • Security
    • Risk and compliance management
    • Quality management
    • Infrastructure and application performance
    • Scalability
    • Availability
  • Securing of funding
    A sufficient initial investment and a commitment for future funding based on business-value generation are critical to start and nourish a strong COE. Aligning the various departments and existing setup towards an SOA requires the creation of credibility in early engagements. This helps enforce progressively complex decisions across various IT teams during the evolution of SOA within the organization.

Once the COE is created and operational, according to Ravi, the following are its main activities:

  • Create, review, and refine the SOA transformation roadmap - a list of initiatives organized in terms of relative importance, sequence, and time lines.
  • Set up a communication and information sharing mechanism, for example, Wiki, containing guidelines, best practices, methods and information, progress of the SOA initiatives, showcase of key SOA accomplishments and value delivered by initiatives.
  • Create guidelines, standards, and best practices for each stage of an SOA project, for example, an outline of standard work products that must be produced in different SOA stages, such as for functional and nonfunctional requirements, design tools, etc.
  • Evaluate select, and mandate vendor products, standards, and best practice architecture aligned with the functional and nonfunctional scope and needs of the organization.
  • Reuse of both knowledge and technical assets - such as requirements and business rules documents, design artifacts, and technical code created during transformation activities.
  • Knowledge- and learning-related activities, including meetings and workshops to increase SOA knowledge of team members, sharing information about SOA initiatives and progress to the larger business and IT community, etc. This helps key members of the COE gain visibility as having the requisite knowledge and expertise to make the right choices for an enterprise. COE also shares its architect resources on key projects at Acme and in this manner acts as a catalyst to promote competencies and best practices.
  • Architecture reviews ensuring alignment of design/implementations with COE architectural guidelines and consequently increasing the odds for SOA success.

The article is based on IBM Global Services’ (IGS) experience of setting up SOA COEs in different companies and provides practical recommendations on responsibilities and operations of a SOA COE - the ways it can set the stage and guides project teams implementing SOA.

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