Monday, December 15, 2008

SOA Bank

In a discussion on the CBDI Forum Linked-In Group, Dave Ruzius proposes an SOA Bank.

'Did anyone ever consider a "SOA Bank" that would fund initial investments for SOA transformation and service development for a nice cut of the cost savings after x years?'

I love the idea of an "SOA Bank", but there's that voice in the back of my head saying "It will never work". The killer question is of course trust between the "lender" and the "borrower". Unfortunately, there is no agreed benchmark for measuring cost-savings. So there is too much scope for disagreeing (and even cheating) on the actual levels of cost-savings achieved, especially if there is real money at stake. This is ultimately a question of financial governance.

So let's look at the situations where it might work. In a public sector environment, or in a global multinational, you might have a central accounting function with enough power to make this kind of arrangement viable. Or even in an ecosystem dominated by a single player - perhaps a major manufacturer or franchise operation, providing funding for cost-saving initiatives by its suppliers or franchisees.

At the other extreme, you could have some kind of market mechanism. If the cut of the cost-savings is built into the price of using the service, then the SOA Bank will get its money back if and only if enough people are using the service.

I think we can expect organizations to get a lot more savvy about IT procurement generally, and if SOA gives them more negotiating options (for example, pay-as-you-go or payment-by-results) then we can expect people to take advantage of this. And we can expect suppliers to respond to this pressure - there are already many offerings in the "xxx-as-a-service" category, and I am sure more of these will emerge during 2009.

Funding is going to be squeezed all round, so SOA transformation programmes are going to be managed on the basis of just-in-time investment. You need to look carefully at the capabilities needed at each stage, rather than rushing around the SOA supermarket and just chucking everything with an SOA label into your shopping basket in case it might be useful.

Finally, if there was going to be an SOA Bank, whether supporting the demand-side or the supply-side, it would need to check SOA plans for credibility and viability before offering any funding. If this meant that over-ambitious or incoherent plans got sent back to the drawing board and only sensible plans got approved, this would surely be a good thing for SOA. Wouldn't it?

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