The Importance of Governance in Establishing an SOA

Sumi Smith, Acting CIO, California Department of Transportation and Ron Clemens, Acting Division Chief, IT Infrastructure, California Department of Transportation
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Sumi Smith, Acting CIO, California Department of Transportation

IT governance is a corporate governance model that is used by a business to govern the way that their IT resources are expended and coordinated. In its very essence, governance is the coordination and oversight of corporate decisions in the best interest of the business at large. IT governance then becomes the coordination and oversight of the IT decisions to be in the best interests of the business enterprise. This creates a broad vision of the appropriate application of IT resources for the strategic interests of the business, and avoids the focus within business silos.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a modularized structure of an application in which processes are implemented separately with a common interface structure so that they can talk to each other and to the core or service bus, being called into action only when they are needed.

The business benefit of utilizing an SOA application model is a reuse of the modularized implementation of a service and agility in modification of those services to changing business needs. As the business grows or changes directions, the modular way that an SOA application is constructed allows targeted changes to particularly impacted services without a full-scale change to the application. These create potentially significant cost and time savings. Through implementation of SOA, interoperability of services are simplified and made more efficient both within the organization and with its business partners by reducing integration complexity found in legacy architectures. By utilizing industry standards SOA simplifies the organization’s architecture resulting in lower support costs and allows staff to focus on strategic initiatives instead of maintenance. SOA is a good model for business processoriented solutions architecture but many times SOA is implemented without a solid governance model to support it.

Ron Clemens, Acting Division Chief, IT Infrastructure, California Department of Transportation

However, a lack of governance around SOA can eliminate the significant agility and cost benefits. Since the services being offered to applications in SOA architecture are interchangeable, in order to realize the benefits, the business must agree to the processes that each service provides. This should create a sort of common language of services that all applications in the same environment will use and benefit from. Duplicate services performing the same type of function should not exist. Instead the applications should utilize the most common base of service and build additional services to perform the additional needs. Decomposition of complex processes is the goal. The only way to create uniformity and understanding of this common language is for the business and IT to join forces and work collaboratively to identify the basic process building blocks.

“Implementation of SOA, simplified interoperability of services and made it more efficient both within the organization and with its business partners”

The importance of establishing an effective governance model sometimes causes organizations to establish a rigid model that inhibits the inherent agility of SOA. Items to avoid in your model include: not decomposing business processes completely, not requiring adherence to established standards, not allowing exceptions or using inconsistent nomenclature. These things can add confusion and complexity which will detract from your organization’s acceptance of SOA and ultimately undermine a successful implementation.

Through the practice of governance in the implementation and maintenance of SOA, the business and IT form an alliance that yields agility, cost reductions and boosts an organization’s ROI. 

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