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Avoid Nasty Surprises with Sound Governance

by Ranjan Baghel

August 11, 2009

Thinking about migrating to enterprise SOA? An enterprise SOA governance strategy is an extremely important first step. If you execute that strategy before you start analyzing, designing, developing, and so on, it can direct every step in the migration as well as create well-documented, quality-assured, reliable business services.
 

Migrating to enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) inevitably presents elements of risk to a business, so it’s especially important to first execute an enterprise SOA governance strategy — even an enterprise SOA pilot project, if possible — before going ahead with the project. Why is it so important?

Imagine that your organization has decided to migrate to enterprise SOA. The migration team gets the process underway by analyzing, designing, and eventually developing, testing, and deploying the new enterprise SOA-based solution. The team members create services and plug them into the database. Everything appears to be in order when suddenly, you are blindsided: One service contains an error that causes all functioning departments and processes relying on that service to malfunction. The entire chain of work comes to a standstill. Only when the team locates the offending service and corrects the code can you set the system back in motion.

The resulting domino effect from that one error has left your organization paralyzed, and it has cost you precious time and money to regain system stability. You could have avoided the problem altogether if you had implemented enterprise SOA governance at the beginning of the project. It would direct and document each and every necessary step in the enterprise SOA migration.

The Role of Governance

Traditionally, the world of IT revolves around the exchange of business-application ownership between the IT organization and the business unit (BU) that uses the applications. These two groups work closely together. They work on the same business processes and toward the same enterprise goals. However, each department represents a business process in its own separate language. What enterprise SOA brings to this scenario is a service-oriented approach, bridging the gap between the two, resulting in a more highly coordinated and collaborative effort.

Enterprise SOA governance drives the overall business process with a consistent and documented approach to controlling the services that a business consumes and reuses. It creates procedures with technology and standardizes and communicates them among end users. The core strength of enterprise SOA is that it can reuse services, and strict regulation over these services is as essential to the corporate decision-making process as it is to the whole enterprise SOA project.

Considering that corporate governance establishes the business processes in the first place, an enterprise SOA governance strategy can ensure that the organization creates secure and reliable business processes, avoiding potentially negative impacts on the project. You can accomplish this by carefully planning which decisions to execute for effective management, as well as which users should have the rights to those decision inputs and the method to execute them.

Non-enterprise SOA-based projects also need governance; however, enterprise SOA governance is much more crucial in delivering an enterprise SOA migration to the business. Enterprise SOA’s dynamic architecture introduces expanded adaptability as well as an element of complexity. This architecture has several more consumable, reusable parts, such as enterprise services and reusable development components that represent business functions. Such versatility and reusability make it even more important to enforce an enterprise SOA governance model and avoid unnecessary obstacles. It is arguably more essential than any other governance model established so far.

An example may help to illustrate the distinction between enterprise SOA governance and a more traditional IT approach. A common scenario in traditional governance might play out as follows:

  1. Upper management gives the go-ahead for a new business process.

  2. A particular BU has the task of certifying that business process.

  3. The IT department develops a technical solution for it.

  4. IT hands the application to the BU again to validate the changes.

  5. The BU gives necessary change requests back to the IT department.

  6. The process returns to step 3, and back and forth it goes.

All the while, upper management hovers over this iterative “process volley” between departments, adding yet another layer of complexity.

The processes that evolve from such a traditional setting usually result in a linear business-to-IT interaction, as well as little or no feedback between the two departments. This is a laborious and ineffective method of governing workflow, and it emphasizes how independent each department’s process is. The approach is more cumbersome than enterprise SOA’s method of coordinating the exchange of information between the two departments.

The approach to enterprise SOA governance is altogether different from the traditional approach. It works with the unique flexibility and efficiency of its architecture and enables the various organizational units’ creation and modification processes to work in tandem. For example, the enterprise SOA governance task force requires people from the BUs and the IT units to complete their parts of the process concurrently during the enterprise SOA initiative, thus demanding complete coordination of the overall process.

In addition, you can involve all the users in key practice-based and policy-based decisions at the same stage in the process. This is not necessarily the case in the traditional approach. You could even establish a business-services policy board to address such issues as how to align order processing with corporate practice and how to determine the best method for computing sales tax.

In essence, the business benefit of enterprise SOA governance is that it can synchronize business processes between company departments and IT management so that they work simultaneously for a more inclusive and transparent process.

Enterprise SOA’s Areas of Governance

You can broadly define and analyze the effective principles of enterprise SOA governance and their various phases in the following five stages of an enterprise SOA implementation project (see “Key Stages of Enterprise SOA Governance,” below):

 

1] Organizational: This stage involves all levels of IT and business, both corporate and departmental. The focal point in organizational governance is the conceptualization, restructuring, and assimilation of processes with their cross-functional departments, which can include anything from line of business (LOB) to development to security. Organizational governance addresses challenges that require funding and ownership from particular departments, such as pinpointing any shared services and getting a commitment to the proposed governance strategy on an executive level. This stage also involves designing business-process architecture, analyzing cost-worthiness, and assembling an adequately prepared team for cross-functional communications and planning.

2] Architectural: This stage relates to business-oriented and technical functionality within the enterprise. The three core issues in this stage are to make key decisions, adequately document them, and then put them through an evaluation process. All this happens at the enterprise architecture (EA) level.

The EA team’s goal should be not only to circulate the knowledge assets that it creates, but also to use resources to determine which knowledge assets to assign to which project. This primarily avoids any needless distribution of services, keeping in-check the proper assignment of documented and project-specific decisions. This stage of enterprise SOA governance is primarily reference-based and is important in managing business services. Without it, the business services are not organized, and there is no record of their correct use.

3] Developmental: In many ways, this stage reflects the decisions made at the EA stage. You can equate this stage of the governance model to the software development life cycle (SDLC), as it integrates service production with the development cycles of other enterprise SOA solution components. SDLC takes progressive steps to define, create, test, and eventually deploy services within the operational environment. After SDLC, you may have an internal or project-based review, as well as an external (enterprise or government policy-based) review process. Going a step farther, SDLC governance not only executes the EA’s application of defined services, but also employs the resulting applications throughout the various life-cycle phases, which the overall IT project requires.

4] Operational: In this stage, an enterprise SOA governance strategy measures the effectiveness of each service’s ability to identify project costs, decision rights, and overall benefits for the business. Therefore, it is important to assign a hierarchy of users who can access particular services, as well as to manage how enterprise SOA will function once it is set up.

One suggestion for this process is to have a services-management platform monitor and administer a set of technical policies, also known as a service-level agreement (SLA). Likewise, the best way to maintain any business policies is through an Enterprise Services Repository (ESR). Because enterprise SOA is capable of enabling information accessibility and visibility, it provides more transparency of the exchanged data and better measurability of the services.

5] Retirement: The final stage of enterprise SOA governance, as it relates to retiring or disconnecting services, occurs when the company changes or reorganizes parts of its business process, or when consumed services are neither useful nor necessary. This stage involves a retirement status transition, which is triggered in the service repository when a service is no longer required operationally. This transition automatically prompts an assessment process that is based primarily on determining the user impact of discontinuing that particular service. When other alternatives or improved services are available, this service is decommissioned and retired in the final stage of its life cycle.

Benefits of Enterprise SOA Governance

The benefits to your company from having a properly established enterprise SOA governance model are the following:

  • A versatile and customizable business process that takes far less time from start to finish than more traditional methods

  • Diminished risk margins due to data-integrity maintenance, resulting in fewer sales and customer service-related issues and fewer inquiries linked to inconsistencies

  • An improved and synchronized working environment, which incorporates the teams’ data management, the communications between the business and IT departments, and an increase in the workforce’s overall productivity, which will lead to a greater competitive advantage for your enterprise

Using governance in an enterprise SOA migration ensures that the services you provide to your customer base will bring the highest value-add over the long term. It also creates well-documented, quality-assured, reliable business services, enabling you to implement enterprise SOA without calamity.

6 Tips for Creating a Governance Strategy That Works

Identify objectives and make a plan: Begin your enterprise SOA governance strategy by identifying the organization’s business goals, keeping in mind the ability of IT to support these goals. You can do this, in part, by creating an enterprise SOA roadmap that highlights the progressive steps necessary to shift your business infrastructure to an enterprise SOA landscape.

Establish paradigms and procedures: Create governance boards (such as the business services policy board) that can work with enterprise architects to manage procedures and set standards. These groups work on major issues, such as exception management and authorizations, while they are in a constant-communication-and-feedback loop with all the users involved in the enterprise SOA initiative. These users range from administrators and business analysts to IT architects and managers, and include executive participation at the beginning of the project.

Quantify components of the organization: Make sure you measure the objectives of the business in terms of its compliance, the number of projects that adhere to processes, the number and usability of reference architectures, the services used, and the service-reuse metrics, among others. Also, determine whether or not you can automate these units or how easily you can capture them in an enterprise SOA architecture. The measurability of the business is an essential part of delivering the enterprise SOA strategy.

Introduce governance models into regulations, decisions, and methods: At the executive level, involve different roles and responsibilities (projects such as service ownership, architecture, financial/funding, operations, people (such as the EA group and service and process owners), technology, and portfolio) in the various models of governance. Some of the models for these groups include:

  • Prioritizing educational strategies, communications, and teamwork at the top, to accomplish the enterprise SOA project as efficiently and smoothly as possible

  • Distinguishing which processes can be automated

  • Using error-interception methodology and requirements management to supervise and administrate the different processes

  • Emphasizing that certain people and groups need to participate — this is done by executives — to ensure that governance continues throughout the project’s life cycle.

Measure and build on the processes now in place: Evaluate your newly established governance model by measuring how achievable your progress goals and enterprise SOA roadmap are. This requires analyzing the information you have compiled during the governance strategy phase and determining what functionality and importance that information will have throughout the project.

Elevate and improve the maturity of enterprise SOA governance: Bring your enterprise SOA governance strategy to a higher maturity level by looking at the objectives met at the current maturity level, enhancing the current maturity level with refined enterprise SOA goals, and, finally, developing innovative strategies for the next enterprise SOA maturity level.

Ranjan Baghel is a senior SAP NetWeaver consultant currently leading enterprise SOA initiatives within the SAP NetWeaver Practice Group of Fujitsu Consulting N.A. Baghel was also a presenter at SAPPHIRE ‘07 Atlanta.

 

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