Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Overcoming SOA Intimidation

This blog has been on ferlough for some time, but is now returning to its reguraly scheduled broadcasting.

Talking with customers, I am realizing how intimidating starting an SOA project is. So many capabilities to deploy, so many products, so many acronyms, so many standards, so many industry initiatives, so many vendors-- where does one get started? I often recomend starting with an SOA pilot, prove success, build momentum, win over the hearts and souls of colleagues, let some semblance of inertia occur, and away you go on your SOA Journey. Then the question ultimately arises of how to choose your first SOA Pilot and criteria for doing so-- this will be discussed in subsequent blog.

So, how does one overcome their SOA fears?

1) Education. Get a good baseline understanding of what SOA is and what it entails. I spend a lot of my time in this area making sure my customers "get it" and comprehend the big picture, all the corresponding principles and practices, and practical applications of the SOA theories. Hire an industry expert to come in or attend a Boot Camp to get educated on what SOA is.

2) Take a Step towards the ledge. Dive In! The best way to learn, is to try. Engage in an SOA pilot. Give it a shot-- choose something rapid and quick that you won't lose your shirt on if it doesn't meet your expectations or fully succeed. You have to get off the sidelines if you want to be a player!

3) Hire a consultancy. Really, if you don't know what your doing, get an expert to help. How many companies implemented SAP or Oracle on their own? Let the experts help. Everyone is touting they know SOA, so certainly be selective in who you choose. It's the notion of specialization-- would you try to build a house by yourself? No, you don't have the time, expertise, or resources to do it. Also, many times your opinions and forsight can be narrow, and hiring outside help will give a good 3rd-party opinion. You want your first project to go right, so make the right investment.

4) Talk with Others. Ask your friends, family, neighbors how they implemented SOA. You can network at a conference (if you can avoid all the vendors...) but engage in open dialouge. Understand what went right, but more importantly, what went wrong with other experiences.

5) Don't go by (or buy) the book. All the SOA books I've read are very academic, and are great for reference, obtaining deep knowledge, and helping you to fall asleep at night. You need the cliff notes to get started! Who has time to read a 400 page book before engaging on their SOA Journey? What customers need is a cookbook, and that just doesn't exist (hmm...maybe a good idea for a book? SOA Cookbook, coming to a Barnes and Noble near you). There is plenty of reference material on the Internet, but certainly there are products out there that will help you create webServices, XML, process models, composite applications without having to filter through the SOA academia.