Resistance to Change: Adopting SOA With Cloud Computing

Douglas K. Barry, Principal, Barry & Associates
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Douglas K. Barry, Principal, Barry & Associates

Resistance to change may very well be the biggest issue to address when trying to achieve an effective SOA with cloud computing. This is illustrated by accompanying force field analysis. In force field analysis developed by Kurt Lewin, a goal or vision is shown at the top. Driving forces, which help achieve the goal or vision, are at the left pointing in the same direction as the goal or vision. Representative driving forces are shown in the analysis. Restraining forces, which hinder goal achievement, are at the right with arrows pointing to the left. The accompanying analysis shows representative restraining forces related to business and legal, as well as design issues. (We will get to the resistance issues shortly.) At some point, driving and restraining forces are in equilibrium as is illustrated by the wide vertical line labeled “Status Quo.” The relative strength of the driving and restraining forces determine whether change occurs.

For all the press about the technology of SOA and cloud computing—and related technical issues— what is often missed is that, as technology and standards evolve, technical issues diminish. Organization are left with understandable restraining forces related to business, legal, and design issues. And resistance issues.

Where there is change, there will be resistance. Some people like change and look forward to it. There are also the folks who hate change. And then there are the “wait and see” folks. They are concerned about the impact of change on them, but are willing to wait and see what happens. This is often the larger group. These are the people to focus on, because you can win them to your side. Plenty of communication and participation can do wonders. The more people worry and wonder, the stronger their resistance becomes. It is just human nature.

William Bridges has written extensively on the topic of change in organizations for the past several decades. Bridges’ work, Managing Transitions, is particularly helpful for the manager planning a technology change. His model views change as a series of events going from an ending, which is the way things used to be, to a beginning, which is the way things will be in the future when the project is complete. Between the two is the neutral zone. This is a stage in which few things are the way they were and it’s not clear how things will be. It is in the neutral zone, according to Bridges, where resistance can be found, because that is marked by confusion and uncertainty.

The longer your organization is in the neutral zone, the more resistance can build. So, if there is one piece of advice I can give to folks embarking on a SOA project, keep the scope of the project limited so that the time to complete is as short as possible.

Many development method­ologies emphasize reduced project scope and reduced project times. Nevertheless, it is so tempting to create big projects. You and your team need to come up with ways to minimize the scope of each project. Multi-year projects are unthinkable. Twelve-month projects should be looked at skeptically. The challenge is to create projects that can be com­pleted in less than twelve months— less than three months would be even better.

“Organization are left with understandable restraining forces related to business, legal, and design issues. And resistance issues”

Smaller projects are more focused and are more likely to succeed. Large projects are likely to fail. Since 1994, the Standish Group has conducted studies on IT development projects, compiling the results in the Chaos Reports. In 2005, Watts S. Humphrey of the Software Engineering Institute looked at the Standish Group’s data by project size. His research showed that half of the smaller projects succeeded, whereas none of the largest projects did.

Many little successes will go far in minimizing resistance to change and clarifying for people what the future will look like.

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