Service oriented architecture (SOA) is generally recognised today as an important way to improve business flexibility and better align business and IT.
It does this by using formally defined software interfaces to increase the reusability of software, break down technology-driven barriers among internal and external organisations, and lower the costs of integration.
The promise is powerful, yet SOA raises unique challenges an SOA initiative can be derailed unless an effective governance framework is established to clearly identify roles, responsibilities and decision rights associated with services.
This framework should include measurement and control mechanisms to better ensure compliance to policies and deliver business value.
According to a Gartner report, "SOA governance is not an option, it is an imperative". Gartner estimates that failure to implement working SOA governance mechanisms will be the most common demise of SOA projects in 2006.
Realising the potential
The adoption of SOA is a catalyst for an organisation to improve corporate and IT governance. By extending IT governance to include SOA, companies will be able to realise the potential of a services-based approach.
Effective SOA governance needs an integrated approach to people, processes, information and assets.
A four-phase cycle is used to establish, maintain and enhance effective SOA governance: planning, defining, enabling and measuring.
When planning, project leaders should understand the scope of the governance need within the organisation and identify areas for improvement.
They should commit to an SOA initiative within the IT strategy, determine the level of IT and SOA capabilities and review current governance capabilities and arrangements.
Defining and modifying
Once the opportunities for improved governance are identified, IT and the business should work together to define and modify current governance arrangements and mechanisms.
Solutions are put into action during the enabling phase. New, enhanced governance processes and technology components are deployed to discover and manage assets.
Communication regarding expected behaviours and practices within both the business and IT decision-making communities are essential during this phase.
Lastly, all governance arrangements need to be monitored, managed and measured. This provides the opportunity to evaluate the results and, if needed, initiate a new four-phase cycle to refine and enhance governance effectiveness.
SOA governance helps users establish tailored decision rights in the organisation and implement the policy, measurement and control mechanisms to carry out those decisions.
Effective governance helps free teams from the uncertainties and challenges of trying to figure out who needs to agree on what, so they can focus on creating and delivering innovative business solutions.
Danny Sabbah is general manager of IBM Rational Software
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