A Pony in the Pile - A Curmudgeon's View of SOA Adoption


Considering that the Web Services-for-SOA marketplace (as distinguished from the Web Services-for-RPC marketplace) is only now crossing the chasm to the early adopter phase, no responsible IT leader would try. An effective SOA adoption strategy must start with a pragmatic and evolutionary attitude to SOA technology introduction. It must address the questions: What do we need now? What will we need next? What can we leave to later?

Here is where our agility in SOA adoption begins.

Planning, Schmanning!

But, you've gotta have a plan! ... Don't you?

Ken Schwaber, the founder of the Scrum process, tells a story about describing traditional software development and project management practice to the process scientists at Dupont ... and of being laughed at. [1] You are making, they said, a fundamental mistake of confusing an empirical process with a planned process. A planned process is one that you have executed over-and-over, thousands of times, like building tract homes. You have performed the process so often with so little variation that you have a firm statistical basis for planning and optimizing the process and, consequently, a high assurance of meeting your objectives. The software development process is not, they said, such a planned process.

No. The software development process is, more likely and more often, an empirical process. A process which, though it may be similar to projects that you have done before, has enough novel features that it is more like oil-and-gas exploration than home construction. In exploring and exploiting an oil-and-gas field, you make your plans and  then you adapt them to the real conditions on the ground. You quickly learn: most fields are similar; none are the same.

Let there be no doubt: SOA is not like anything your organization has done before. SOA is an enterprise architecture philosophy. SOA is a system architecture philosophy. SOA is a new analysis discipline. SOA is a new design discipline. SOA is a new testing and quality discipline. SOA is new technology, new tools, and new infrastructure. SOA is business process change. SOA is a culture change. 

SOA is not just Web Services.

In technology and organizational change management, many initiatives are either under-planned or over-planned. They are planned in ignorance. They are planned without clear goals and reasoned objectives. But, more to the point, they are often statically planned rather than dynamically planned.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of agile project management is how it embraces change, how it lives and breathes adaptivity and feedback. Agility is planning and execution; it is not just a plan and a whole lot of work. It is a process of goal-setting, goal-resetting, prioritization, reprioritization and always measuring your progress-to-goal and assessing the real business value delivered. It is not just the consumption of budget and schedule.

Long Jump Over The Grand Canyon

It is exactly this agile attitude toward, and discipline of, planning that we need in order to make SOA adoption work. The plan is worthless; the planning is priceless.

The Project Management Institute defines [2] a project as an endeavor with a specific beginning and ending in time that works towards an achievable set of objectives. A program is different. A program is a coordinated set of projects that collectively advance the organization toward a set of business goals. A program may have a beginning in time, but often doesn't have a defined end. A program has goals and strategies, more than plans. A program doesn't know its exact path to its goals, nor if it can achieve them wholly. It must explore the ground and manage the risks as it encounters

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