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SOA implementation expert advice

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) implemention has caught the interest of CIOs. This expert podcast series focuses on the state of SOA, the vendor market and consolidation, and the total architecture.

This series of service-oriented architecture-related podcasts includes expert discussions on SOA implementation, the vendor market and consolidation, the role of the SOA architect and the total architecture. Leading industry expert Dana Gardner offers specific advice to enterprise CIOs at various stages of their SOA implementations.

ABOUT GARDNER: Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC, where he is a leading identifier of software productivity trends and new IT business value opportunities. He tracks and analyzes a critical set of enterprise software technologies and business development issues, including SOA, Web services, integration, application development tools and application delivery optimization techniques.

Part 1: Vendor market and consolidation


Part 2: The role of the SOA architect

Read the full transcript from Part 2: The role of the SOA architect below: 

Karen: Hello, my name is Karen Goulart. I'm editor of SearchCIO.com and I'd like to welcome you to today's expert podcast series on service oriented architecture, or SOA trends.

I'm joined today by Dana Gardner, President and principal analyst for InterArbor Solutions, LLC.

Dana is a leading identifier of software productivity trends and new IT business value opportunities. He tracks and analyzes a critical set of enterprise software technologies and business development issues, including service-oriented architecture, web services, integration, application development tools and application delivery optimization techniques.

Prior to starting InterArbor Solutions, Dana was a senior analyst in the application infrastructure and software platforms decision service at Unity Group Research Incorporated, where he advised clients on enterprise software, technologies, software trends and development and application development and deployment strategies.

He has also been designated a top industry influencer for IT industry analysts by Technology Marketing Magazine in both 2001 and 2002.

He helped earn a Best Trade Tabloid Maggy Award for Western Publications Association in 1998, and was a Top Computer Journalist for Electronic Publications awarded by Marketing Computers in 1996. Welcome Dana.

Dana: Hey, it's great to be here Karen.

Karen: Great. As I mentioned earlier, we're here today to talk about SOA trends. Today's podcast presentation will be broken into three segments, each ten to 15 minutes in length, and the series of podcasts will include discussions on vendor marketing [inaudible 01:37], the role of the SOA architect and the total architecture.

Today's second presentation is on the role of the SOA architect. In the second podcast, I'll ask Dana a number of questions regarding the role of the SOA architect in the enterprise. What does the organization need to cultivate a SOA culture, and what type of skills should a CIO be looking for in a SOA architect hire?

So Dana, let's get started on our questions. My first question for you today is what is the job market like for SOA architects? Are they hard to find, high in demand? What are your thoughts on that?

Dana: They are hard to find. They are in high demand, and if you're some of the ones who have the credentials to call yourself a SOA architect then the world is your oyster because this is a difficult combination of assets and experience skills, and that's because in order to make services oriented architecture work, it's about delving into areas that had been previously closed off or isolated, allows for collaboration and conceptual integration between what IT function are, and who and what business processes do and what to do and evolve into.

And so this is about an individual or a team that needs to cross chasms and counter boundary issues effectively.

And so they need to have a depth of knowledge in IT, both of what's been in place then what's coming down the pipe, so to speak.

They also need to have a grounding in what its business functions are. What is the strategy and direction of a company, how are the business functions going to be supported by IT, and then, of course, they need to have the ability to develop consensus and enthusiasm and buy ins from different parties within these different [inaudible 00:03:32] across their organization, as well as work well with the vendor community that they're involved with, perhaps have a sense of what's going on in an open source community.

So these are people that have to have a very diverse, multi-functional background, and be not only good, one, at IT, but be really good at people skills as well.

Karen: Would you say it's easier to find skilled SOA architects in the US or overseas?

Dana: No, I don't think there's any geographic boundary on this. This is really about someone who's had background either coming from the business side or the IT side, but with a grounding in both. You know, some companies would refer to this a T-person. You want them to have a horizontal axis on the business understanding, and then a vertical axis on the IT understanding, and be able to pull it together. You need to sell IT to the business people and you need to sell the business issues to the IT people.

Now, there are going to be cultural differences between markets and in some countries there might be more of a cultural bias towards resisting confrontation and different ways of building consensus, but however consensus is built in a company, it doesn't matter how, it just needs to take place.

So, another way to look at the difference between a SOA architect in perhaps what's been known as an enterprise architect, is they need to have a wider curve view. They need to be looking at the issues from a little bit of a higher extraction or perspective. And to use an analogy that I think's quite effective, it's the difference between an architect in the physical world, who might design a building, and a town planner who might actually be looking at designing an entire community, which would include infrastructure, like sewer and water and electric. They might be looking at traffic patterns and what needs to take place for roads or parking lots. It's really the entire ecosystem of the town that is closer to the notion of what a SOA architect would do versus, say, an enterprise architect, that in the past has focused on specific application platforms, perhaps an integration between certain types of applications and between the support of an IT function versus the entire IT business community.

Karen: Yeah, that makes sense. And what about training, you know, your current internal staff? Is it possible to train them to get up to speed to be a SOA architect? Is that the best idea, or just hiring outside or a fresh person with just those specific skills would be better?

Dana: Yeah, that's a great question. I've asked several people that and I think it's important, at least for the early years of SOA, you probably want to look for these people internally, because one of the biggest issues with SOA is the fact that your SOA's going to be different from anybody else's, and it's dependent upon where you've been for the last 15 years and how IT's evolved within the organization.

You also always want people to be well-rounded in your business and understanding what [inaudible 06:51] are going to be important, what strategic directions are going to be undertaken and how IT is going to support that.

So, I think, internal, is probably the best first place to look, at least in the opening years of SOA or these SOA architect type of people.

And also, I would emphasize, there's probably not going to be a single person, but really a team, and that you can find some of these competencies, while, you know, maybe not every individual is going to have these issues and understanding and background, but a small team that is perhaps the office of SOA architects, could pull together these and you could have a combination in that regard of inside and outside because you look perhaps, want to bring in some fresh blood and understanding some of the newer technological directions that you're heading in.

Now there have been some certification programs that have been put together, I believe the Open Group is putting together a comprehensive SOA architecture definition of how people say "Do I have what it takes? Do my skills match?" and if not, "What do I need to bone up or learn in order to fill out properly this SOA consortium which is set up by the OMG, the Office Management Group, is often working along these lines." And so there have been some structured approaches, but conceptually I think you want to look internally, you want to look for people, or a small team that has multi-dimensional backgrounds that can be people-oriented, consensus builders, as well as IT-literate and expert in terms of the technical
[inaudible 00:08:24] sets, and then, of course, you're going to want to look for someone, or a team, that can put together that higher perspective, not just looking inside a silo or a platform, but looking at the entire picture, thinking about the implications or the transformation of the business over the next five years.

Karen: So for a company that's big enough to need a team or an office of SOA architect as you mentioned, can you talk a little bit about, briefly, about what type of roles would be on that team? Like, why you would need a team, you know, what aspects would need to be covered?

Dana: I mean, you might look to a team because it's a lot to ask of one person. You might also recognize that because the marketplace is very much in the demand side, if you have a really great single person with all of these capabilities there are going to be other people knocking on their door saying "Hey, please come work with us, and we'll make it worth your while."

So, you might want to reduce your risk of losing this essential person by spreading some of the deal and responsibility around, and so if there's a disruption that might occur, if personnel-shifting might be reduced by having this spread around team.

You'll also probably want to have somebody who is responsible for being close to an IT set, liaison with people who are focused on a business strategy or initiatives. You're probably going to have at least one of these people on the board of the directors of the company in order to be a liaison in that direction so you know what the strategy [inaudible 00:09:57], and that has got the buy in and support at the board level, so that when a cross-dimensional decision set needs to take place and investment needs to take place in both IT and business and change needs to happen at the organizational level that you have the backing to accomplish that.

So I think it makes sense for a team to have different fees and different aspects, different power flow or points of power within the organization, and also to reduce your risk, that if you have all of this invested in a single person and that person leaves, then you don't have to start from scratch.

Karen: No, that makes perfect sense actually. I actually have one, time for one more question, how can the SOA architect help cultivate a SOA-centered culture?

Dana: Yeah, that's essential, and I think you've termed it just right, SOA culture. This is really transformational and it does require buy in and enthusiasm, and if people put their heels in the ground and decide that SOA is not in their best interest, they don't think it's good for the company, they're going to have a heck of a time implementing these things.

So, it does require buy in and consensus building and you need to explain why these things make sense, and in many cases, they do. If you look at the way companies operate today with chaos and isolation and a very difficult long period of time for IT to support change in business, that doesn't make sense, and so in order to get that buy in and explain why these changes are essential, you know, people's main livelihoods and jobs are [inaudible 00:11:36]. If the company doesn't succeed in the modern world, then other companies, regardless of their location around the world, are implementing some of these SOA benefits, they can beat you to market, they can adjust to the market, work swiftly, they can reduce their cost by instigating process efficiency and productivity improvement on a large scale.

If you don't get the buy in and you don't get the change in approaches that SOA supports then you'll be out of a job, you'll be out of business. So, somebody needs to explain that, not just in technical terms, but in real world terms. So, like...

Karen: And that's the role of SOA architects?

Dana: I think so. There has to be an advocate, and almost a politician as well as just a decision maker about strategy and technology.

Karen: Well that's all the questions we have time for today. Any last minute comments on today's topic that you'd like to leave the audience with?

Dana: I would say, for those people that feel good about their skills, that like to talk about these issues that are really energized by high-level productivity improvements, that have a background as a developer or an existing enterprise architect, then they should seriously consider advancing their career by embracing their role of SOA architect. Do a little bit of research and find out what it is that the market is demanding of SOA architects, and just do it. I think it's an excellent job and it would make for a very good lifestyle and fulfillment of occupation.

Karen: Great. And on that note, that concludes our second podcast of the SOA trend series. Check out the webcast and podcast section on SearchCIO.com for direct links to the first and third installment of this SOA series.

Thanks again to Dana Gardner for speaking with us today, and thank you all for listening. Have a great day.


Part 3: The total architecture

Read the full transcript from Part 3: The total architecture below:

Karen: Hello my name is Karen Goulart, I'm editor of SearchCIO.com and I like to welcome you to today's expert podcast series on service oriented architecture or SOA trends. I'm joined by Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst for InterArbor Solutions LLC. Dana is the leading identifier of software productivity trends and new IT business value opportunities. He tracks and analyzing a clinical shed of enterprise software technologies and business development issues.

Including service oriented architecture, web services, integration, application development tools and application delivery optimization techniques. Prior to starting up InterArbor Solutions, Dana was a senior analyst in the application infrastructure and software platforms decisions service at Unity group research incorporated. Where he advised clients on enterprise software technologies, software trends and developments and application development and deployment strategies.

He has also been designated a top industry influencer for IT industry analyst by Technology Marketing magazine in both 2001 and 2002. He helped earn a best trade tabloid maggy award for western publication association in 1998 and was a top computer journalist for electronic publications awarded by marketing computers in 1996. Welcome, Dana.

Dana: It's great to be here, Karen.

Karen: Great, as I mentioned earlier, we're here today to talk about SOA trends. Today's podcast presentation will be broken into three segments. Each ten to fifteen minutes in length and the series of podcast will include discussions on vendor market consolidation, the role of the SOA architect and the total architecture. Today's third presentation is on the total architecture. In this third podcast, I'll ask Dana a number of questions regarding the lifecycle approach to SOA and how it can positively impact your organization. So Dana, let's get started, my first question today is how is SOA architecture different from enterprise architecture?

Dana: Well it's really about scope and breadth, you know? We're moving beyond folks being just responsible for a certain aspect of either business or technology. And it's no surprise that that's how things evolved, it's about how to take a complex problem, break it down into small parts and manage it that way. And I think that's what we've seen quite a bit of in the past 20 years around IT is that, things got complicated, things were maturing on their own and then try to be brought together into a larger IT service function.

And we left with the vestiges of decentralization and, I suppose a fits and starts, approach to technology. I suppose many companies have also evolved through mergers and acquisition but we inherited different types of technology platforms and solutions that they then had to meld into a larger hold. Cause the enterprise architect has been basically with their feet in the past around being in control and in charge of specific technologies.

That or in just a point to point positive integration among and between several or just a few previous technology application set. Well, the role of an architect at SOA level or SOA, is really to try to go beyond that point to point, rationalize what's in place but shake it up and re-stir it so that it can be apply to larger business processes. And the processes can be somewhat flexible; you can change things without breaking everything underneath or at least causing a long term chain of events to create change.

Rather than make change more spontaneous.

Karen: So how is management and governess affected when the architecture is totaled?

Dana: Well I think at the point of governess, it's important to understand what we mean by total architecture. We're talking about archetyping a business, and not just archetyping a process or an IT system. So the notion about total architecture is how to have a conversation about the picking of a business goal. And then how to make the other underlining part behave in a way that aligns with that goal that doesn't subvert or that crops up issues about why thing can't change or shouldn't change.

Governess is about more on how things operate once they are up and running. But before you can be up and running, you have to in affect decentralized parts and reorganize them in such a way that they're not brittle, that they're not interdependent. At the same time, it's challenging because you need to keep the operations going at the same time. Equivalent of changing the wings on an airplane while [inaudible 05:04]. So this is another reason why total architecture is an important concept.

Now... other ways that I got educated about this was a book that was published last year called "Dealing with SOA, Realizing Business Values Through Total Architecture," which was written by a Dr. Paul Brown who is a principal software architect at Alinko Software. And his notion is that business processes and systems are intertwined and designed as one, but next to the other.

But we've had separate architectural and design approaches. And many cases what happens when the IT side, who happens on the business side. With a notion of total architecture is to say, "Alright, let's move up and extraction, put together the teams and individuals who can play a higher level role. Like the role of a SOA architect and create the ability to work with these two groups in some kind of harmony, and perhaps even simultaneously, instead of it being linear."

And by that I mean that in the past, company would get designed and everyone would get thrown over to operations and they would put it into production. And there wasn't even a lot of communication and collaboration between the design time and then the run time. Now we're asking not only to have better communication among and between the developers and the implementers of technology.

We're asking them to also relate to what's going on the business side and react to it quickly. And so that creates a need for a total architectural overview.

Karen: And what distinguishes total architecture from the past?

Dana: Well in the past, you had siloed it a function and oversight. And so, in the same respect, if you're running a household and you had someone who was just doing the cooking and someone who was just doing the shopping. And they didn't compare notes; they'll be hard to put together recipes if you didn't have the ingredients.

It would be hard to know what ingredients to buy at the supermarket and what quantities if you didn't understand what the new recipes were going to be in demand a few days out. And in a sense, IT in many organizations behaved as if the cook and the shopper are two different people who don't have any relationship to one another. So what we're trying to do is recognize that the goal here is food preparation and not just cooking and not just shopping.

But to pull it together in the total sense, you might think of that as the total approach to food preparation. We're trying to bring that same kind of mentality on a much larger and more complex scale granted. But it's really that simple, to say that the past was about isolation and about focus on a small set. But in the complex fast paced world in which we live. With digital information is so rapidly available through the internet and through globalization.

That whole system just doesn't work anymore; it can't support the needs and the need for the change. And it can't support the complexity of managing total processes and strategies. And any company that can't move quickly is going to be at a disadvantage.

Karen: I actually have one final question for you. The CIO I think obviously gets the importance of the SOA role in the organization, but does the CEO understand the business value that the SOA architecture brings to the organization?

Dana: Increasingly yes. Most companies that are large, that are global, understand the crucial role that IT plays. So many more CEOs are much more tech savvy than was the case only a few years ago. The internet had disrupted so many business models and it created so many opportunities for new growth and business... dominance within certain segment.

That CEOS are much more tech savvy and so it's not a manner of the CIO convincing the CEO of the importance of IT. Generally, it's about getting their attention as to where to invest and how to make an IT investment. Organized and understood in the context of the business process development or strategic business initiative.

And these conversations shouldn't happen after the fact that if I'm a CEO and I'm thinking about a merger and acquisition or entering a new market. I don't want to get into that and then go a month later to the IT people and say, "How can you help me implement this?" The IT people should be involved throughout the discussion, throughout the liability and cost benefit analysis of new business initiatives.

Because IT is fundamental, it's not an afterthought and the ability for total architecture approach should really bring together the conversation between a CEO and a CIO. They should be closer in how they do their business objective and really not being one as a slave or a master to the other.

Karen: Well that makes sense, well that's all the questions that we have time for today. Any last minute comments on today's topic you'd like to leave the audience with?

Dana: Well I think in the sense, we have to regain sight of an end to end business process. If you're a small business and you have a few moving parts, it's easy to innovate. You can go out and say, "Wow, I'm just going to change the way I do things. I'm going to buy what I need, put it in place." But in large corporations, those that become so large and complex that that sort of basic business practice adjustment comes at tremendous cost and tremendous length of time. It's time to take a reevaluation of that and look at end to end business processes as your differentiation of how you behave in a market. And before you enter new markets, you need to have those business processes in place and the ability to amend them quickly. So I would say, let's take that total architecture view, recognize the intrinsic importance of IT across the life cycle of a business objective.

And get the IT people involved, first and foremost, so that they can in fact become a... catalyst to helping you change. Rather than a speed bump or a road block that will change you want as a business.

Karen: OK, on that note, that concludes our third podcast on the SOA trend series. Check out the webcast and podcast section on searchcio.com for information and links to the first and second installment of this series. Thanks again to Dana Gardner for joining us today, and thank you all for listening. Have a great day.


Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchcio.com.

This was last published in May 2008

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