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Wall Street champions SOA governance

A Citigroup enterprise architect makes the case that SOA isn't an IT initiative to be managed; rather it's a management initiative to bring IT into alignment with the business.

NEW YORK -- Yesterday Skip Snow, an enterprise architect at Citigroup Inc., stood in front of a group of Wall Street's finest technical minds assembled for a Web services/SOA presentation and declared, "Strategy is tactical."

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While some at the Web Services/SOA on Wall Street show continued to draw a thick line between strategic and tactical concerns in service-oriented architecture development, Snow insisted that agility, accuracy, transparency and compliance had become the main tactical goals of American business and that an SOA strategy represents the way to deliver on them. He positioned a functional SOA as the "governance mechanism" for the entire enterprise.

"The proposition is how to govern with SOA, not to govern SOA," he said. Key points within that included the need to create full feedback loops on decision making and enforcement as well as making the business side of the house fully interoperable with the IT side.

He also made the case that different lines of business need autonomy in how they govern these decisions, to allow for a separation of powers under the corporate umbrella.

"Different units do not want a one-size-fits-all governance model," Snow said. "That makes sense; not everyone group has the same needs. … There is a compliance guy with a view that is very different from the business-guy view."

Founded in 1812, Citigroup currently manages "about a billion dollars in profit every 11 days." To maintain the growth and balance of such an empire, SOA governance has played a profound role. "It would be impossible to organically grow Citigroup without SOA," said Snow.

SOA, on the other hand, is not a just-add-water solution. "Don't buy into SOA thinking it is going to solve all your problems," said Robert Massie, VP of Financial Services at IBM. He argued there are many levels of SOA and governance and too many unanswered questions at present to cure all concerns.

 Different units do not want a one-size-fits-all governance model.
 Skip Snow
 enterprise architect Citigroup Inc.
"As service changes, it can have a very cascading atmosphere … a key concern for SOA governance," said Jake Sorofman, vice president of product marketing at Systinet Inc. "There will be visible SOA failure in 2006." Though he added it is highly unlikely to stop progression of SOA adoption.

That's because SOA governance is the mechanism by which decisions can be made and enforced. "Without a virtual meeting room, we're in trouble," said Snow, referring to a common place for which all levels of a company can interact and, inevitably, enhance the overall value of a business. Snow further went on to explain that "SOA allows you to componentize your business, as opposed to componentizing your technology." Making business and IT interoperable is key.

Taking the interoperability credo down to the IT level, Snow said, "All repositories need to interoperate." In order to avoid overlap, he recommended creating an orchestration engine that makes sure one domain's governance doesn't run into another's.

While pursuing the strategic goal of being well-connected and thoroughly integrated may cause some tactically minded folks some concern, Snow warned that failure to achieve it will put companies at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to their competitors who have managed to make it work.

"Without SOA governance, we will fail," he said.

This article originally appeared on

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