Surfing change through enterprise SOA governance

CIOL Bureau
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In an age of constant changes, battles in business are often being won and lost on the basis of the ability of the information technology to synchronize business processes and catalyze growth.


Enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA) helps businesses respond more quickly and cost effectively to changing market conditions. Enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) is a business-driven software architecture that allows you to share and reuse services within your company and with strategic partners.

Going a step further, Enterprise SOA Governance is an all-encompassing application framework that acts as a force multiplier. This is particularly relevant in a scenario of inorganic growth where multiple legacy systems need to be quickly pulled together and orchestrated to grow further.

SOA governance

The term ‘enterprise SOA governance’ refers to the processes, policies and associated control mechanism a company establishes in order to steer the adoption, implementation and evolution of SOA in line with business needs. These governance principles provide SOA initiatives with structure and control, resulting in the reusability of enterprise services.

SOA governance is the process of aligning Enterprise Services across industry standards. Governance ensures consistency, harmonization of semantics and reuse across all solutions. It differentiates plain “vanilla” web services from Enterprise Services.


Consistently successful enterprise SOA calls for a holistic and evolutionary governance approach that encompasses people, processes and technologies. Enterprise SOA initiatives that rely on a tool-based governance approach alone will inevitably be limited in scope. To assure that the benefits of enterprise SOA are achieved, governance must expand beyond the core strategic alignment between business and IT. Enterprise SOA governance embraces well thought-out processes, guidelines and procedures that need to be systematically developed and matured.


Effective enterprise SOA governance calls for a holistic management approach that integrates and aligns the corporate business strategy, the IT strategy, and the planning and operational activities associated with enterprise SOA solutions.


This approach encompasses people, processes, and technologies. In most companies, some elements of enterprise SOA governance already exist. For instance, you can leverage IT governance as part of the foundation for enterprise SOA governance. However, enterprise SOA governance is much more; it involves organizational structures, skills, and procedures aligned with business needs. Competency and control ensure that enterprise SOA delivers sustained benefits.

Enterprise SOA implementations call for a well-managed approach to organizational planning and transformation. Many of the ingredients for enterprise SOA – from human resources to IT infrastructure components – likely exist within a company. The art is to identify and prioritize the gaps on the road to enterprise SOA without reinventing the wheel. IT and business organizations jointly define and establish new processes, ranging from business requirements translations and process definitions to enterprise service  development and the ongoing adoption of enterprise SOA solutions.

The staff members need to develop new skills so that they can fulfill new roles within the framework of the company’s culture. When people understand their roles in designing and implementing enterprise SOA solutions, they understand the business usage of enterprise SOA applications. Principles for sound decision making as well as robust escalation procedures need to be in place. The paradigm shift from an application centric approach to a process centric approach drives the need to understand business processes in detail and its underlying business events.


Enterprise SOA changes the way in which business and IT deal with each other. The change in mindsets is significant. The IT organization needs to thoroughly understand business requirements, become more responsive to business needs and speak the language of business; business organizations need to clearly communicate what they need and are prepared to pay for so that the IT organization can provide the underlying architecture required to deliver and maintain services with business-level meanings.

This mutual understanding is the key to the design, development, use, and reuse of enterprise services that are synchronized with business needs. And effective enterprise SOA governance is the key to creating this understanding. An enterprise SOA competency center serves as the nucleus that drives this understanding.


Business-driven enterprise SOA is based upon a clear understanding of business strategy and objectives. Business processes need to be defined and engineered based upon this understanding. This approach determines which enterprise services are appropriate for a particular business process, which services are ready for reuse, and which need to be newly developed, and the appropriate enterprise service granularity.

The enterprise services design and modeling methodology integrates business processes and business content while also harmonizing Web service technology with business semantics. It takes good design-time governance to ensure that the tools and procedures used by this methodology adhere to architectural guidelines and standards.

A strong competency center is central to the evolutionary transition to enterprise SOA. The enterprise SOA competence board that staffs and runs this center includes business process owners from the line of business areas and from the IT side. Executive level sponsorship and strong leadership ensure that the competency center is visible across the enterprise.


The enterprise SOA competency center provides thought leadership as well as highly skilled planning and management resources. Through its planning, management, consulting, and operations functions, it proactively ensures that things are done right to achieve business value and mitigate risk for your enterprise. Serving as a central communication hub for all enterprise SOA activities, it is the lighthouse that the organization turns to for guidance and advice.

The ultimate objectives of enterprise SOA are to enhance responsiveness to change in the business and IT arenas and to accelerate project delivery. The enterprise SOA competency center provides the prerequisite skills, expertise, and guidance, taking a holistic approach that mitigates risks and yields services that can easily be tailored and combined to support and facilitate business processes, such as setting up a new customer or processing a supplier invoice.


Benefits of enterprise SOA

The benefits of enterprise SOA are compelling: increased strategic agility for the business and major productivity gains for IT. But the prerequisite for these benefits is a high degree of governance automation – both at design-time and runtime. You can achieve this by using enterprise SOA governance and supportive life-cycle management tools that span all phases of the enterprise service life-cycle. Automated governance tools help to ensure compliance with proven design principles and support the reuse of enterprise services.

Community building has proven its worth to enterprise SOA initiatives. The global enterprise SOA community produces value based upon the open exchange of ideas. For enterprise SOA, idea sharing needs to be done in a safe, predictable manner with the primary focus on co-invention to advance enterprise services, the underlying enterprise SOA, and associated governance. Sharing best practices in enterprise service communities helps to facilitate tasks such as service abstraction and harmonization. Enterprise communities help companies to considerably reduce development effort by sharing expertise in the use of standardized services or by exchanging purpose-built services.

A growing number of companies are reaping the benefits of enterprise SOA. One of the classic cases is the Oil refiner company Valero Energy which has fueled its rapid growth through acquisitions. A well-governed enterprise services architecture heavily reliant on Web services has allowed Valero Energy to quickly integrate the IT systems of the acquired companies – in some cases within as little as two months. Valero’s strategy hinged on a two-tiered approach: developing application Web services specific to business applications and build a layer of enterprise services to orchestrate company-wide processes related to contracts, customer and vendor management, pricing, costs, and materials.  

SOA has transcendental value. The true gains of SOA reflect in the growing productive efficiencies of the organizations worldwide.  Enterprise Service Oriented architecture not only guarantees process integrity with extended flexibility for end users, but also helps in a community development of the software eco system.

The author is Development Manager, SAP Labs India