Just as there's no such thing as a completely pure democracy, there's no such thing as a completely service-oriented organization—it's a goal to strive for, and improve things as you go along on the journey.
Still, working toward service-oriented architecture is a worthy goal, as it means running key processes with shared enterprise services, attaining a frictionless state between your systems, and turn-on-a-dime agility for the business that IT can readily support.
Here are some key benchmarks you can check out along the way—a maturity scale, if you will—to see where your organization stands in achieving service-oriented architecture. (Credit to Jeff Schneider of Momentum SI for helping to flesh out the scale.)
Level 1: JBOPs (Just a Bunch of Platforms)
The organization is heavily siloed, with a lot of systems and disconnected applications dotting the enterprise. There may be instances of upper-level managers reading and hearing about cloud services, Web services and SOA, and run into the next meeting and demanding action, but not putting any political weight or support behind the demands. In the meantime, it's likely folks deep in the trenches have been creating and consuming services within their own silos, but the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.
Level 2: JBOWS or JBOCS (Just a Bunch of Web Services; Just a Bunch of Cloud Services)
This may be the level where many organizations are today. Here, there is awareness that various functions and processes can be service-oriented, and there may be plenty of services deployed in different places around the enterprise. Still, most are in silos, and there is no specific oversight or attempt to get an enterprise view on how these services can be shared or interoperate.
Level 3: JBOGS (Just a Bunch of Governed Services)
Decision-makers in the enterprise begin to get their arms around the architectural aspect that is needed to make Web and cloud services more valuable to the business. There is recognition that the services IT or another department is creating and publishing are of potential value to other business units on a shared basis. The company may invest in tools and platforms, such as registry/repositories and testing tools. Still, much of this activity may be confined to the forward thinkers and innovators, not the mainstream business.
Level 4: POPS (Patches of Planned Services)
Business executives start working more closely with IT professionals and architects, and support efforts to increase awareness and availability of shared services across the enterprise. Business unit leaders look to corporate-level services first when considering solutions to business problems. Services are “hot-swappable,” and readily discoverable through online repositories, or even through corporate app stores. You may even be providing cloud services to other companies.
Level 5: Imagine!
As mentioned above, there is no “there” there in the advance to service orientation. Only a journey that involves learning and moving the business forward.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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