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Live from the SOA Consortium – Sandy Carter of IBM


I am attending the SOA Consortium meeting that is co-located with the OMG in Burlingame this week. The SOA Consortium was founded in 2007 and has grown from 11 to 81 members already. They do podcasts, case studies and work with people like Gartner to co-locate events around SOA and BPM.

Sandy Carter of IBM was speaking on the topic of “IT needs SOA Skills”

Sandy’s premise was that SOA Skills becoming a critical issue as SOA becomes more and more widespread and that the missing skills are not just an IT issue. For instance, flexibility and agility are promised by SOA but this requires new ways of thinking and acting and 56% of surveyed people said that the biggest inhibitor to SOA was skills availability and not understanding the value of SOA. Both business AND IT skills were an issue with half of surveyed companies saying they have less than 25% of necessary skills, 80% of them investing to increase skills and over 60% focused on retraining existing staff. 68% said that a combination of business and IT skills was a prerequisite. For instance, IBM finds that a critical business skill is to be able to find the highest value service candidates and communicate this to IT in a way that let’s them implement. IBM calls them T-shaped (broad business skills and deep technical skills).

IBM sees SOA as a business-driven IT architectural approach that supports integrating the business as linked, repeatable business tasks or services. They found that aligned IT/business approaches doubles the productivity gains of isolated efforts – a pure IT / SOA focus can get about a 2% boost in company effectiveness she said, best in class processes on the business side can deliver about 8% but both together showed improvements of around 20%.

Sandy identified three types of skills:

  • Business skills – industry knowledge, risk management, business processes, enterprise view
  • Aligned skills – governance (corporate, IT, soa), business/IT communications, decision making
  • IT skills – business requirements into IT implementations, strategic mapping and modeling, security

She talked a little about “Service Management” becoming a new curriculum in colleges and discussed Smart SOAâ„¢ – a set of information on skills released by IBM. This has a maturity model – from Foundational to Extend End-to-End to Transform to Adapt Dynamically. Each stages has different rates of service adoption and reuse and skills change as an organization goes through the maturity model e.g. service identification skills initially to service integration skills to business process management skills. Some random notes from this section:

  • Big issue is that companies don’t realize that can service-enable their legacy applications
  • IBM focused on describing businesses in 2020 to show where industries are headed
  • IBM’s BPM curriculum being given away to universities
  • IBM has launched SOA Space for developers

IBM has also developed the Innov8 game or business process simulator (available for download) to help business students learn about SOA. This game looks like Second Life or something similar and starts on the business side with players gathering information, learning about the role of the CIO, and ultimately learning how BPM/SOA can change the business. This looked very cool I have to say.

Sandy went on to talk about agility as it was a big issue in customer round tables – how to measure and improve agility on the business side. This led IBM to come up with what they call Key Agility Indicators. She talked about this at some length but I am not sure she means the same by agility as I do. I would have expected measures like “time to introduce new pricing model” or “time to change customer segmentation to target a new group” as these represent real changes in the business. Her examples seemed much more like KPIs to me. Obviously an area I will have to do some more research.

Sandy is a great speaker, very knowledgeable and passionate about SOA and IBM is clearly making some big investments both in its own SOA efforts but also in the broader challenge of getting SOA adopted. Sandy has a blog here.


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  • brenda michelson December 20, 2007, 12:17 pm

    Hi James, for your readers wanting to hear Sandy’s full talk (and the roundtable) we’ll be releasing the podcasts in January. Thanks -brenda