Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, IBM Cloud, Weblogic, Recurring Revenue, Artificial Intelligence, Log Management, Server Monitoring

Microservices Expo: Article

Is Your SOA Hammer Looking for a Nail?

Uncovering clear business drivers for SOA is still a challenge

It sounds so obvious when you get right down to it: you need to know what problem you're solving before you can solve it. Common sense tells you to start with the problem before you can find the solution to the problem. If you start with a solution without knowing what the problem is, then there's no telling if the solution you have will be the right one for the problems you're facing.

Obvious, yes, but it never ceases to amaze us at ZapThink that when it comes to Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) projects, time and again we run into technology teams who don't have a grasp as to what business problems they're looking to solve. Now, it might be tempting to dismiss this disconnect to "techies being techies" or some other superficial explanation, but the problem is so pervasive and so common that there must be more to it. As a result, we took a closer look at why so many SOA projects have unclear business drivers. What we found is that the underlying issue has little to do with SOA, and everything to do with the way large businesses are run.

The Wrong Question
This story begins with the SOA architect. Architects frequently call in ZapThink when they're stuck on some part of their SOA initiative; we're SOA fire fighters, so to speak. Frequently, the first question we get when we sit down with the architecture team is "how do I sell SOA to the business?" Well, if that's the first question they ask, they're already on the wrong foot. That's the wrong question! The correct question is "how do we best solve the business problems we're facing?" SOA is not a panacea, after all; it only helps organizations solve certain problems typically having to do with business change in the face of IT heterogeneity. It's best to solve other problems with other approaches as appropriate, a classic example of the right tool for the job.

For this reason, ZapThink considers the SOA business case as an essential SOA artifact. Architects must have a clear picture of the business motivations for SOA, not only at the beginning of the initiative, but also as the architecture rolls out. After all, business issues evolve over time, partly because of the changing nature of business, but also because properly iterative SOA efforts solve problems during the course of the overall initiative.

Even when architects ask the right question, however, there is still frequently a disconnect between the business problems and the SOA approach. The challenge here is that the architects -- or more broadly, the entire SOA team -- are only one part of the bigger picture, especially in large organizations. In the enterprise context, how the business asks for IT capabilities in the broad sense is often at the root of the issue.

SOA Business Driver Pitfalls
Here are some real-world examples of how we've seen the issue of unclear business drivers for SOA play out in various enterprises. We've generalized a few of the details to protect the innocent (and the guilty!).

    The SOA Mandate at the US Department of Defense (DoD) -- In aggregate, the DoD is perhaps the largest implementer of SOA in the world, in large part because they have an organization-wide SOA mandate. It's true they have high-level drivers for this mandate, including increased business agility and a more cost-effective approach to siloed IT resources. But those general drivers don't help much when a defense contractor must create a specific implementation.

    This particular DoD project involved a contractor who delivered a perfectly functional SOA implementation to their client. The client, however, found it to be entirely unsatisfactory, and the entire multi-million dollar effort was canceled, the money down the tubes. What happened? The problem was a disconnect between high level business drivers like business agility and specific business problems the agency in question wanted to solve. The fact the client wanted to "do SOA," so the contractor "delivered SOA" to the client only made the situation worse.

    The most important take-away from this fiasco is that SOA wasn't the problem. From all the information we gathered, the contractor properly designed and implemented the architecture, that is, followed the technical best practices that constitute the practice of SOA. In essence they built a perfectly functioning tool for the wrong job. Fundamentally, the client should have specified the problems they were looking to solve, instead of specifying SOA as their requirement.

    SOA for the Enterprise Morass -- ZapThink recently received a SOA requirements document from a financial services client who asked us to review it and provide our recommendations. This document contained several pages of technical requirements, but when we got to the business requirements section, it was simply marked "to be determined." Naturally, we pointed out that among the risks this project faced was the lack of a clear business case.

    Our recommendation was to flesh out the business case by discussing business drivers for the SOA initiative with business stakeholders. In response, the client told us that it wasn't feasible to speak with the business side. The entire SOA initiative focused on the IT organization, and the business wasn't directly involved.

    We pressed them on this point, explaining how critical having clear business drivers is for the success of the SOA initiative. Why is communicating with the business such an issue for them anyway? Were they afraid of such interactions? Did they not know who the stakeholders were? Or perhaps there was no business motivation for the project at all?

    The problem, as it turned out, was more subtle. They described the challenge they faced as the "enterprise morass." As happens in so many very large organizations, there are no clear communication patterns connecting business and IT. Yes, there are business stakeholders, and yes, business requirements drive IT projects in a broad sense, but there are so many players on both sides of the business/IT equation that associating individual business sponsors with specific IT projects is a complex, politically charged challenge. As a result, the SOA team can only look to the management hierarchy within IT for direction, under the assumption that at some executive level, IT speaks to the business in order to get specific drivers for various IT initiatives, including the SOA effort. Speaking directly to business sponsors, however, is off limits.

    The SOA Capability Conundrum -- The chief SOA architect at this European firm was in one of our recent Licensed ZapThink Architect Bootcamps, and when we got to the Business Case exercise, he explained that in their organization, the motivation for SOA was to build out the SOA capability. His argument was as follows: if we implement SOA, deploying a range of Services that can meet a variety of business needs in the context of a flexible infrastructure that supports loose coupling and reusability, then we'll be well-positioned for any requirements the business might throw at us in the future.

    The reasoning behind this argument makes sense, at least on a superficial level. Let's build several Business Services that represent a broad range of high-value IT capabilities in such a way that when the business comes to us with requirements, we're bound to be able to meet those requirements with the Service capabilities we've deployed ahead of time. The business is bound to be ecstatic that we planned ahead like this, anticipating their needs before they gave us specific requirements!

    While this organization might very well get lucky and find that they built cost-effective capabilities that the business will need, taking this "fire-ready-aim" approach to SOA dramatically increases the risks of the initiative. After all, it's difficult enough to build reusable Services when you have clear initial requirements for those Services. Building such Services in the absence of any specific requirements is just asking for trouble.

The ZapThink Take
If you take a close look at the three scenarios above, you'll notice that the stories don't really have to be about SOA at all. You could take SOA out of the equation and replace it with any other IT effort aimed at tackling enterprise-level issues and you might still have the same pitfalls. Master Data Management, Customer Relationship Management, or Business Process Management are all examples of cross-organizational initiatives that might succumb to the same sorts of disconnects between business and IT.

At the root of all of these issues is the dreaded phrase "business/IT alignment." It seems that the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to align IT capabilities with business drivers. Sometimes the problem is that the business asks for a particular solution without understanding the problem (like the DoD's SOA mandate), or perhaps a combination of politics and communication issues interfere with business/IT alignment (the enterprise morass), or in other cases IT jumps the gun and delivers what it thinks the business will want (the capability conundrum). In none of these instances is the problem specific to SOA.

SOA, however, can potentially be part of the solution. As ZapThink has written about before, the larger trend of which SOA is a part is a movement toward formalizing the relationship between business and IT with flexible abstractions, including Business Services, Cloud capabilities, and more. If you confuse this broader trend with some combination of technologies, however, you're falling for the straw man that gave rise to the SOA is dead meme. On the other hand, if you take an architectural approach to aligning business drivers with IT capabilities that moves toward this new world of formalized abstraction, then you are taking your first steps on the long road to true, enterprise-level business/IT alignment.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...