Service oriented architecture has many benefits, but all too often, many SOA efforts tend to languish and get mired in organizational politics and inertia. There are many reasons why this happens, but perhaps the main reason is that SOA proponents get trapped into thinking they have to take on and sell a massive, business-transforming project, with lots of planning and lots of committee meetings. 

But the SOA journey need not start with such an overwhelming commitment. Many of the most successful efforts start small, transforming one business process or function at a time. 

This is the theme borne out in a book published last year, with the fairly non-descript title of An Implementor’s Guide to SOA: Getting It Right. But the key and powerful takeaway from the book is that SOA isn’t a luxury for large organizations with large staffs and deep-pocketed technology budgets – it’s a relatively simple, straightforward process that any company of any size can initiate.

Last year, I had the opportunity to emcee the publication launch of An Implementor’s Guide with its seven authors. And, true to the philosophy of service orientation, the book itself was actually a composite work authored by the seven authors, who represent seven different SOA vendors and seven different points of view.

(The book launch Webcast can be accessed here at the Composite Software site.)

The book captured the original elegance of the SOA philosophy, which says that it doesn’t matter what kind of SOA budget you have, or even if you have a budget at all — there are still practical steps you can take today to get started. All too often, large vendors give the impression that huge investments are necessary to get SOA started.

The key is to simply not fuss about SOA too much, but to start now. Or, to borrow Nike’s phrase: “Just do it.” You don’t need to get caught up in trying to boil the ocean, according to Jim Green, president of Composite Software and lead author of the book.In fact, service-orienting systems cannot be fully thought through in the early stages, Jim Green said. One of SOA’s greatest failures is that it often is subjected to paralysis by analysis. “The longer that you ponder the imponderables as you plan, the lower the probability of your success.”

Transformation starts with small steps, and SOA success will happen in increments as you move along the process. As Jim so aptly put it: “No one thinks it all through at once. No one puts the pieces in place perfectly. But once on the right path, it is more straightforward than it first seems, and additional piece fall into place logically. Don’t let anyone overwhelm you by trying to teach you everything at once. Do as much as you can digest, learn from it, and then add to it.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology. He can be reached at


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