It’s a bad time to advocate service oriented architecture, never mind the irony that banks could benefit greatly from its use. “I deal mostly with C-level executives, and when you talk about SOA, their eyes roll a bit. At some places you can’t even bring it up,” says Chris Howard, vp and service director at the Burton Group in Cincinnati, who consults with many of the country’s largest banks.
Howard says IT architecture implementations are often cast as “legacy modernization” or positioned as a component of merger and acquisition conversions. “So we’re using SOA principals, but using different language.” And Howard’s colleague, Burton vp and research director Anne Thomas Manes recently blogged that “It’s time to accept reality. SOA fatigue has turned into SOA disillusionment” and “SOA has become a bad word. It must be removed from our vocabulary.”
So why has SOA, which was announced as “dead” by Burton, become broccoli on a child’s dinner plate—healthy, arguably vital, and groan inducing? The answer is more cultural that technological. Even in tough times, or maybe especially in tough times, corporate turf battles wage on. And for the centralization-enabled efficiencies of SOA to really work, it’s stubborn corporate silos that have to be fed to the dogs. “Typically, we’re incented to not collaborate with one another,” Howard says. “There may be a noble goal in collaboration at the beginning of a project, but at the end of the day, our bonus isn’t tied to how well we collaborate with one another.”
Business units that initiate, obtain approval and take on budgetary responsibility for IT projects eventually become reluctant to give up ownership of that project, making shared services a tough sell. “SOA has to turn that thinking around 90 degrees,” Howard says. “From a business perspective, what can be made common can be difficult to determine, and that tension really slows SOA adoption down.”
Bart Narter, a senior analyst at Celent, says even if IT departments gain buy in from top executives, integrating shared processes across an enterprise can still be cumbersome. “It’s a lot easier to put in a new database than it is to install a service oriented architecture,” he says. “You have to get different parts of the business to agree on services and processes.”