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We are often asked what you need to do to run a successful SOA Pilot. Based on our experience of dozens of pilots, I propose that the following characteristics are essential to success:
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Clarity of Outcome. An effective SOA pilot needs to provide each of the stakeholders with a clear benefit from taking part in the exercise. So for business sponsors specific, preferably quantified business value (increased revenue, reduced costs, improved agility); for users an easier life; for architects a clear understanding of the impact of SOA on their standards; and for IT experience of how service orientation will impact their development and support processes.
Rigorous Scope Management. One of the most difficult challenges with this type of pilot is that during the discovery phase of the exercise a number of additional potential benefits from the approach will be identified. The temptation is to add these to the scope to increase the overall benefit of the pilot. Our experience is that unless you aggressively manage these additional benefits (with the additional effort and implications that come with them) you will lose control of the project and are likely to disappoint one or more of the stakeholder groups and therefore have failed in the key objective of reaching a successful conclusion to the pilot.
Tight Timeboxing. The most effective SOA pilot we have seen have lasted somewhere between 4 and 13 weeks, with a sweet spot around 6 weeks. Too short a time, and you cannot deliver enough value for anyone to take any notice of the exercise. Too long and the stakeholders will either lose interest or be dragged onto other more important activities.
Stakeholder Management. Involve the right people for the right amount of time. This will include the business sponsor, business problem owner, real users, business analysts, architects, IT management and SOA experts. You will need a mixture of ruthlessness and pragmatism to ensure the right people are engaged at the right time in the project.
Control the Technology. Make sure that you don't try to change too much in one go. I have yet to come across a successful 'Big Bang' SOA pilot where a complete new architecture is implemented in one go. Look for ways to incrementally introduce the specific architecture or tool that can add the most value to the pilots, and show it working with your existing systems before moving onto the next component. Incremental, or evolutionary, adoption of SOA is proving more successful and sustainable than implementing the whole stack in one go.
Play to Win. Your primary objective is to ensure all participants gain value from the exercise and see the outcome as a success for them personally. Don't get deflected by fancy technology or a bullying sponsor. If any of the stakeholders don't perceive sufficient value, you will have great difficulty in translating the pilots into mainstream production.
When we have followed these rules, the pilot has invariably been successful. Sounds easy doesn't it? If not, give a call and see if we can help you.
Author: John Moe is Principal Consultant at J Moe Associates, and writes and presents widely on SOA and BPM. With over 25 years experience delivering application development and business transformation programmes, John has made most of the mistakes you will ever make and is keen to pass on this knowledge to help you avoid them yourself. In return he just expects undying gratitude and free drinks wherever he goes.
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