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Eight Gates to Great SOA Governance

The key to instituting a successful governance process

While there's certainly no shortage of opinions on the future of SOA, the reality is that SOA is very much alive. The core principles of what SOA can do in terms of cost savings, increased productivity, and the virtual elimination of information and application silos won't go away. However, the term "SOA" will likely evolve into something else, as it becomes more and more a part of the computing landscape.

What the recent dialog has sparked is an opportunity to redefine SOA and rethink our approach to building, managing, and extending the infrastructure so that it's truly aligned with business goals. One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do this - as evidenced by hundreds of successful SOA deployments - is through governance.

Yet simply applying governance without a clear understanding of business goals is counter-productive. The key is to identify where, when, and at what points in the SOA journey that governance is most critical.

Based on the collective experience of organizations of all sizes, following all or part of the "eight gates" outlined below has proven to be key to instituting a successful governance process.

Serving as a blueprint to guide architects on the governance process, these gates are designed to complement each other while addressing the increasingly complex requirements associated with the software development lifecycle. You can equate the gates to a production line approach where the creation of a product begins with the most fundamental step and incrementally undergoes more detailed design and development before being deployed into production.

When it comes to building and deploying an SOA, following the recommendations outlined in these eight gates can be the difference between success and failure.

Gate One: Define the Business Requirements
During this stage, many organizations unknowingly create unrealistic expectations or confusion among their business and IT leaders. At gate one, the focus should be on determining business goals and requirements and clearly articulating how technology can support the execution of those goals.

Besides mapping out the business goals, related requirements and key performance indicators, it's imperative to build consensus among key stakeholders with agreed-on metrics and benchmarks that will validate and/or redirect the efforts at each stage.

Further - and while it may sound obvious to some - it's important to leave the acronyms and jargon behind and speak only in terms of business value and financial benefits such as return on investment, total cost of ownership, time to market, etc. Some of the most successful SOA project leaders hardly used the term SOA in their explanation to business leaders.

Gate Two: Build Consistency into the Solution Architecture
For larger organizations with various IT efforts underway, it's inevitable that different development teams will have different approaches to solving business challenges. While this can contribute to a library of best practices, it more often leads to confusion, redundant efforts, and increased costs associated with duplicate software licenses and allocation of staff. Not to mention the affects of increased complexity that reduces the infrastructure's reliability, stability, and interoperability.

Building on the lessons from gate one that focused on defining the business requirements, gate two is associated with clearly articulating and agreeing on the standards, policies, and best practices that must be adhered to as the services are being built. These standards include reference architectures, platform standards, software usage standards, and reuse policies.

More Stories By Jaimin Patel

Jaimin Patel is director of new business development at WebLayers and has more than 18 years of IT industry experience in various roles spanning IT management, software development, and product management. Prior to WebLayers, Jaimin was vice president of network systems and services for Fidelity Investment Systems where he ran multiple enterprise management departments and executed enterprise-wide CIO initiatives.

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