Firms that under-invest in SOA governance will fail to reap rewards

Organisations that under-invest in the Software Oriented Architecture (SOA) governance initiative will fail to reap the long-term benefits SOA offers.

This is one of the key conclusions to be drawn in new report, just published by Europes leading IT research and advisory organisation, Butler Group. The report,SOA Governance, says that while technology support will be required, this is primarily an organisational issue with the emphasis on putting the right people in the right roles, and giving them the necessary authority to ensure that the architecture design is kept consistent with business aims and requirements.

Most organisations deploying SOA leave it too late to implement effective governance, says Rob Hailstone, Software Infrastructure Practice Director at Butler Group. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes to retrofit governance to an operational SOA environment. However, the effort must be made if the SOA initiative is not to descend into chaos.

For enterprises the adoption of SOA provides significant potential to improve the value they derive from their IT investments, in terms of increased flexibility, improved use of assets, alignment with business objectives, and reduced integration costs.

Butler Groups report deals with the four major phases of the SOA deployment: Planning, Design and Development, Run-time, and Change Lifecycle.

While most descriptions of SOA governance focus on the technology-centric run-time environment, this represents just a small part of the overall governance effort. The ideal time for an organisation to commit to SOA governance is right at the start of the SOA initiative, by establishing the design authorities for the services and other artefacts to ensure that disruptive ownership issues are minimised.

One of the disruptive aspects of SOA that is often missed in early projects is that all resources in a SOA need to be shared, and this means traditional budget-holder ownership models are a very poor fit leading to much frustration further down the line.

The report additionally points out that an IT-driven SOA initiative is unlikely to be effective in the long term unless the parent organisation recognises the need to become more adaptable itself. It needs to be prepared to examine its own organisational model as part of the change process. 

From a design perspective, perhaps the most important concept for SOA implementers to understand is the need to abstract anything subject to change (such as business process logic, business rules, service level agreement enforcement, security policies, etc.), from the more stable business logic. The report details the way in which failure to address abstraction at the design stage can lead to complex dependencies that will make ongoing change management time-consuming, expensive, and unwieldy.

Technologies that support the SOA governance initiative include service registries to provide the system of record for service discovery, metadata repositories to assist in version management and impact analysis, monitoring tools to provide run-time visibility into the health and activity of the environment, and policy enforcement technology.  

Delivering the long-term benefits of SOA will only be possible if organisations recognise the need to invest in a SOA governance initiative. 


Butler Groups report SOA Governance provides a comprehensive analysis of the best practices in designing, deploying, and maintaining SOA.

It gives different perspectives on a number of critical issues including:  

  • How SOA governance provides linkage between corporate governance and IT governance.
  • Why people and processes are more critical to SOA governance than the supporting technology.
  • How to ensure the service architecture is designed for the benefit of the whole organisation, not just the initial project.
  • How to monitor the health of the runtime environment in a continuous fashion.
  • Why business policies should be enforced dynamically through active runtime components.
  • How to address the complexity of SOA change management.
  • How leading companies have deployed SOA governance in their own organisations.
  • Which vendor solutions can be deployed to support the different phases of SOA governance.

The report uses a number of case studies to show examples of how best practices have been implemented, and provides overview information of vendors that can provide supporting technologies.

Rob Hailstone is Software Infrastructure Practice Director and co-author of the Report alongside Michael Thompson, Butler Groups Business Process Management Practice Director.

About Butler Group

Butler Group is Europe's leading independent IT Research and Advisory organisation. Its mission is to ensure that its clients are the most comprehensively informed IT and business managers on current, emerging, and future technology matters, and their impact on business - in short, "Analysis without compromise". Butler Group has established an enviable reputation for the impartiality and incisiveness of its research and opinions. This is evidenced by a client base encompassing over 40% of the top 100 companies in each of Butler Group's key markets.

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