Holding the End of the String


Holding the End of the String


or Making SOA Effective


I just attended a training session at church this week.  One of our leaders, Mark Webb, produced a ball of string and gave it to another of our leaders to hold.  He then asked what each member of my church council could do to help this persons family.  The string was passed around weaving a web as people answered "I can help his children" - "I can work with his teenagers" - "I can provide him with a responsibility for others to give him the joy of serving others".  This was a powerful metaphor as we discussed how we could work together as leaders in the congregation to help a family.


A similar metaphor relates to Service Oriented Architecture.  We are looking for individual components or services to provide a business solution.  The business solution is obviously comparable to the family to be helped and the members of my council are individual services that are part of a solution.  Carrying the analogy further we could say the string is orchestration of these services.  So far so good.


Once our web was spun Mark then asked the individual representing the family to let go of the string.  His point was clear - we need to make sure at church that we are focussing on the needs of the individual families, not the programs of the church.  The church is for the benefit of the individual members and not vice versa.


In SOA we have the same potential problem.  I often talk to customers who have "dropped the string".  They are not connected to the business requirements, they are driving SOA for its own sake and supposed benefits.  This approach is extremely dangerous if not fatal.  SOA is only as useful as the benefit it brings to the business.  I recently asked a salesman to justify his use of some of my team.  He responded enthusiastically about how this was "a classic SOA opportunity", I think he mentioned the words "business agility".  I probed for the business justification but found nothing other than the "classic SOA opportunity".


Unless SOA is tied in to a real business problem or opportunity it remains the preserve of the IT domain and no matter how well executed or intentioned it will not be important to the business unless the business can see a concrete example of how it helps them.


The early stages of a SOA strategy may be done in the confines of IT, but as the strategy is reified it needs to be brought into contact with real world business programs, otherwise the string is not connected and we are wasting our time.

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About

Musings on Fusion Middleware and SOA Picture of Antony Antony works with customers across the US and Canada in implementing SOA and other Fusion Middleware solutions. Antony is the co-author of the SOA Suite 11g Developers Cookbook, the SOA Suite 11g Developers Guide and the SOA Suite Developers Guide.

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