Tag Archives: SOA

Inside of a Dog, it’s too Dark to Read: SOA and Business Variation

Groucho Marx once famously said “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”

The amusement is that the word “outside” is semantically ambiguous. What’s less funny is the SOA Manifesto stating that they will follow the principle of “Pursue uniformity on the outside while allowing diversity on the inside.” Much like the Groucho Marx quote, the antecedent for “outside” is ambiguous. Outside of what?!

(Picture of Groucho Marx looking a bit like Ron Schmelzer)

Why is this statement problematic?

First and foremost, I chastise this statement because it is sloppy. Sloppy architecture is what got us into this mess in the first place. But more importantly, this statement reflects a narrow, IT centric view of the scope of Architecture which leads down a dangerous path. Complexity theory has a term called a “holon”. A holon is something that appears to be a whole–yet is a part of something larger (e.g an organism is part of a biosphere). By confusing the antecedent for “outside”, the SOA Manifesto focuses on the holon of the service interface. If so, the reworded principle would be “Pursue uniformity on the outside (of the service interface) while allowing diversity on the inside (of the service interface).” The problem with this statement is that it ignores the concept of diversity on the outside (of the service interface).

Diversity on the outside solves the business complexity problem
Lest you think I’m splitting dog hairs here, why is this of any importance?

Because everyone is presently overfocused on the complexity of the IT Supply rather than the complexity of Demand on IT. The business is driven to compete, innovate and requires Internet style services that scale and can be consumed on any device in any language, anywhere and any time. They demand self-service, personalized, localized, mass-customized and differentiated customer experiences, and they require access to the same information whether it’s in a customer contact center, on a web browser, an internal application, on a mobile device or at a branch office. Business demands complex consumption patterns on the outside of the service interface.

By ignoring the consumption pattern diversity, attention is only drawn to the IT problem of managing complex IT supply. One of the biggest flaws in SOA implementation, and arguably the reason why Anne Thomas Manes declared “SOA is Dead” is the lack of connection between SOA and the business solution. The ability to dynamically compose solutions into composite applications, mash-ups or business processes using business services is the central underpinning for agility and business transformation.

Managing Business AND IT Complexity
This requires the ability to solve the problems of Business Complexity and IT Complexity. Services are just tools that allow you to trade consumer complexity for trust, thereby improving manageability. Processes are tools that take full responsibility for complexity, thereby enabling optimization. The primary function of Services in this context is to manage the interaction between two specialized organizational subgroups. This allows one group such as business unit to consume the services of another group say, IT without having to know the gory details of the implementation of the service. Insulating the business from the complexity of IT is helpful, since the IT subgroup is highly specialized and therefore hard to understand. However, two implications arise, firstly that the business group is also highly specialized and therefore complex. Secondly that IT cannot abdicate its responsibility for IT Process, unless of course it is prepared to outsource the service. The provider view of a service is process-oriented, only the consumer view of service is service-oriented.

The “new normal” Business Environment
A good example of this complex consumption pattern is Software AG’s recent partnership with Tom Tom Work–who are now able to offer fleet management as-a-service to their business customers. The ability to offer outsourced transportation and logistics management enables Tom Tom to provide a new differentiated service on top of the core competencies of their organization, namely location-based services. The power to dynamically recombine core capabilities into new product and service offerings while simultaneously offloading non-core competencies to partners reflects a “new normal” business environment. Complexity should be seen as a function of specialization, and organizations should identify which sources of complexity they want to embrace through process-orientation, and which sources of complexity they want to eschew through service orientation. Eschewing complexity through service-orientation requires the discipline of segmenting specialized Enterprise subgroups and actively deciding whether your organization wants to invest in world-class processes or divest services to outsourcers. No single person in the Enterprise can understand the total complexity of the value chain, but this does not lead to weakness as long as you can align internal and external subgroups through trust or by developing a trusted framework of operation.

Trusted Frameworks

A trusted framework allows you to manage complexity housed in many discrete silos without requiring explicit trust between specific providers and consumers. By externalizing trust into policies that are uniformly enforced, we create a trusted environment. An example is automobile traffic. Automobile traffic is exceedingly complex, and no single driver can understand what is in the minds of all the other drivers. In fact, when one goes on the road, it is not because one trusts each and every driver explicitly, rather that there are enforceable rules of the road that have been declared and enforced. Individual trust relationships between drivers is not scalable. So a driver trusts in the framework of policy enforcement. Similarly, trusted environments hold the key to enabling spontaneous networks of collaboration between Enterprise subunits and external partners and suppliers.

As such, the business and IT functions need to develop a framework of trust that creates the possibility of continuous improvement–an evolutionary paradigm that at the Enterprise scale requires continuous measurement, continuous optimization, continuous alignment and continuous collaboration. If SOA and Enterprise IT are going to bury their heads on the “inside of a dog”, it will be much too dark to read the intentions of the business.

My 2 cents,

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The Enterprise 2.0 Crock

I think it’s great to have a panel called “Is Enterprise 2.0 a Crock?” at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. Much like SOA conference panels addressing “Is SOA Dead?”


Dennis Howlett posed this question in his blog, entitled Enterprise 2.0: What a Crock. The summary paragraph is quoted here:

Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies that most E2.0 mavens ridicule but can’t come up with alternatives that make any sort of corporate sense. Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types – except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then – where are the use cases? I’d like to know. In the meantime, don’t be surprised by the ‘fail’ lists that Mike Krigsman will undoubtedly trot out – that’s easy. In the meantime, can someone explain to me the problem Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve?

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there are legitimate technologies that can help organizations collaborate and gain significant advantages. But the Enterprise 2.0 crowd for the most part do not show the kind of sophistication about the Enterprise that is needed. OF course there are many many counterexamples of people who are very sophistcated, @ITSinsider @Nenshad @PhilWW @Mastermark and others.

But when I hear panelists say things like:

* The way that business is organized is fundamentally changing, period
* we are breaking down silos
* I don’t know who goes into offices anymore
* Email “reply to all” costs $250,000

I really wonder if there’s enough healthy debate on this topic. It would be nice to see @dahowlett on the panel.

The concept that Silos are something that can be “broken down” shows the ignorance of the people saying it. I wont point a finger at the panelist who used the phrase, and I hear people saying this throughout the conference. But this is a completely wrong concept, and dangerous.

Silos, both organizational and technological are an emergent property of Enterprise. As I defined earlier in the week, the Enterprise can be defined as an organization whose mission requires longevity, size and growth. Longevity creates technology silos, growth creates organizational silos.

Christopher Allen cites Robin Dunbar very well in this post about the famous “Dunbar Number.” We are hitting fundamental limits to human social scalability in the Enterprise.

Until Enterprise 2.0 folks gain a deeper understanding of the day to day reality of the Enterprise, this will continue to have a superficial impact on the Enterprise. If we look back at Enterprise 2.0 in 20 years and can see lots of Enterprise 2.0 “legacy applications”, we can consider this effort to have been a success.

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SOA Arrogance is Dead

I spoke at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in the SOA Track immediately after Anne and made the following point..

First and foremost, the most stupid and ignorant reading of “SOA is DEAD” is that the perspective of SOA is no longer needed in the Enterprise. This point of view is stupid, particularly when SOA is so important for mash-ups, Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS, BSM, IT Governance, Portfolio management and most modern IT practices.

The problem of Enterprise IT Complexity (and Entropy) *DOES* need to be solved. SOA is one of many key architectural perspectives that can make this happen.

Everything is a service (SOA) is an incredibly powerful view.

But within appropriate bounds, everything can also be appropriately viewed as a Process, an Event, an Object, a database table, or other abstraction.

The idea that an enterprise architect could become so focused on “one architecture to rule them all” is as preposterous as “one vendor to rule them all”.


Like the unfortunate cat in this photo, the Enterprise Architect’s head “GROED TOO FASS”… SOA simply cannot be applied to all things. Conceptually it works. You can walk around and talk about how everything in the universe is a service. It’s actually a fun exercise. But to try to implement Enterprise IT that way, by occluding and dominating everyone else’s world view is simply ineffective.

We all know that the “tipping point” has been reached with IT, and that just about everyone is dissatisfied with it. SOA is an essential ingredient in the fix, but instead of insisting on an “Atkins” diet that consists only of meat (services), why not have a healthy and balanced diet that includes vegetables (processes), whole grains (objects), healthy oils and fats (events) and some sugars like fruit (database tables). While it may be unfair to compare SOA to a fad diet, the concept of a healthy enterprise never goes out of style.

Everyone’s point of view is needed, and although IT ends up looking very “simple” if you try to take a simplified view of IT and force it upon everyone. Unfortunately, such a simple monolithic view, even if it is as powerful as SOA will fail.

Enterprise Architects are smart people. We should all be able to incorporate and understand the validity of multiple viewpoints at the same time. The service oriented viewpoint is the key perspective with which IT can reorganize itself, but it should not be force fit over business people who think in processes or developers who think in objects or data gurus who think in tables.

We have gone from integration of systems, which is the rather mundane task of getting machines to interoperate, to the sophisticated task of integrating world views, and even more importantly, intentions. The Enterprise is made up of many world views and many different intentions. These need to be reconciled, but to run roughshod over the perspectives and intentions of others is simply not an adoption best practice.

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SOA Summit Wrap Up

In the spirit of saving you a few bucks, I’ll provide a summary of the Software AG SOA Summit event in Scottsdale, AZ.

First off, we have a bit of coverage of the event…

* Joe McKendrick blogged about “Stepping out of your Silo
* Jignesh blogged about “…a turning point in the SOA Movement
* Jason Bloomberg picked up on “Evolution is about Survival

If I were to echo a sentiment from the packed-to-capacity event in Scottsdale Arizona, SOA has become vital… This observation was made by Forrester analyst John R Rymer.

SOA Practitioners are now asking the hard questions–and coming up with the pragmatic answers. I proposed that SOA itself could be seen as the answer to a simple question:

“How do you maximize the business value of the existing and ongoing investment in IT?”

Asked in this form, many architectural principles naturally emerge out of the “primordial soup” of technical services that clutter every large Enterprise. Business Process is a common answer to the “business value” component, while leave-and-layer, loose coupling, reusability and core SOA principles emerge as logical ways to refactor existing and ongoing investment.

But part of the paradigm shift was in understanding the shift from what SOA is to how to achieve it.

Sean Valcamp from Avnet demonstrated this kind of pragmatism by showing how a complete system of measurement can accelerate and ensure adoption of SOA… Measurements spanning Financial, Operation and Behavioral areas, including both strategic and tactical components.

By establishing such a robust program of measurement, SOA adopters can ensure both Approval and Adoption–two distinct facets of the SOA Success pattern.

We talk a good bit about how measurement must be connected with behavioral incentives in our free eBook, SOA Adoption for Dummies.

Another very helpful case showing powerful dynamics around both Approval and Adoption was Kevin Flowers and his presentation on the amazing SOA results coming from Coca Cola Enterprises (CCE).

The lightbulb that went off for me during Kevin’s presentation was that if SOA is about human behavior, that we all could benefit from taking a page from the marketing handbook. As you all know, Coca Cola is a genius at marketing…

Kevin showed how geographic mash-ups showing sales data superimposed on maps can provide a powerful “economic stimulus” for SOA projects. He also demonstrated how using GPS and delivering services to mobile devices creates powerful connections previously unavailable.

In one case he cited that the headquarters noticed one delivery person moving back and forth within a store. When they called this person they discovered that they were moving hundreds of cases of Coca Cola products using a grocery cart–because the store did not have a pallet loader (which their service-level agreement required them to have!)

By providing mobile devices to Coca Cola Enterprises employees, the company saved millions of dollars and avoided significant costs incurred by support of larger devices like laptops as well as over 2M dollars in pure toll charges (reps calling the 800 number from payphones).

The roster of speakers was a bit dense to go over one by one, but Leo Shuster, Bjoern Brauel, Ron and Jason from ZapThink, Susan Cramm and many others shared their insights.

For me, it was a reflection of a deeper turnaround in the SOA market–a newly found sense of optimism tinged with practicality. Architects rolling up their sleeves, taking measure of their adoption plans and getting their SOA programs under way with an eye to proving the value of their approaches.

Given the global reduction in travel budgets and the specter of swine flu, I was amazed to see packed-to-capacity rooms and very active participation in our program. If you have any other questions about SOA Summit, please feel free to contact me.

My 2 cents,

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