No, I'm not talking about the money they blew on dodgy financial instruments. I'm not talking about Sir Fred Goodwin's pension. I mean all the money they spent on SOA, CEP, and other leading edge software.
When I first read Joe McKendrick's headline (Analyst: SOA may have reduced severity of mortgage crisis), I thought he meant that the crisis would have been even worse if the banks hadn't been doing SOA.
But when I read the piece, I found that he meant the exact opposite - that the crisis might not have been so bad if the banks had done SOA properly. This is based on a recent statement by James Governor, at a presentation hosted by IBM (Virtual Global SOA Forum),
"if we'd invested more in integration over the last few years, and better data governance, we would have significantly reduced the risk in terms of our banking infrastructure, our credit infrastructure, the kinds of mortgages that went out there"
In other words, despite countless SOA projects across the finance sector, the banks have failed to deliver adequate integration and data governance.
People with incredibly long memories may remember IBM's claim that "the banking and insurance industries lead in the maturity of their SOA deployments" [IBM Flatters Finance Sector (June 2008)]. Or that it was a bank that won the SOA Consortium Case Study Contest [More Flattery for the Finance Sector (September 2008)].
I don't think anyone is saying that these SOA deployments could have saved the world economy from crisis. But couldn't smarter SOA have made a difference to the outcome? With hindsight, how clever were all those SOA deployments, really? How can a bank have SOA maturity if it isn't dealing with integration and data governance?
I agree with James that SOA should make a significant contribution to restoring the operational viability of the banks. But I don't agree that the right answer is just more investment in SOA. I think what is needed is more intelligent investment, sensibly planned to deliver lasting business benefit from value-for-money SOA. That's what real SOA maturity means.