Microwave Mentality

In today's fast paced world of "gotta have it now" a disturbing sort of group think has set in - I'll call this "microwave mentality" for lack of a better analogy. Microwaves are great for rapidly preparing food but you're not likely to prepare a world class meal using a microwave. Quality takes time - sometimes we forget that because we've become so impatient. Do you have a microwave mentality? You know the type - the guy that repeatedly punches the elevator call button because it will make the car arrive faster. In addition to being impatient we're too easily distracted, always looking to capitalize on the Next Big Thing, many times before we've finished with the Last Big Thing. 


Case in point: Phil Wainewright recently blogged that "SOA is at rock bottom". In other words its nearing the bottom of the so-called trough of disillusionment. A little over a year ago most of the world was looking at SOA and trying to understand the impact it might have upon their organization. Now its so totally like, five minutes ago - bring on the next hype cycle!


Am I the only one that has a problem with this? My legs are getting tired jumping from one bandwagon to the next.



I was at the National Architect Forum last week where I was on a panel with some really smart guys. The topic was "The Business Case for SOA". This is one of the biggest challenges that many IT departments are facing today. Some of the panelists and audience members suggested focusing on the benefits of service reuse. I pointed out that this approach may be repeating the mistakes of OO and its promise of vast libraries of reusable objects (anyone remember that bandwagon?).


When it was my turn to talk again I asked the audience how many were “building a SOA” and a lot of people raised their hands. When I asked how many people knew how much money their SOA would save them no one put their hand up.


This was my way of making a point – the business case for SOA is, for many organizations, an afterthought. Most of the panelists (self included) advised the audience to avoid focusing on the technical aspects of SOA when making a business case. Focus instead upon the value and agility that can be enabled. I recommended avoiding the SOA acronym altogether since it might distract your audience from the business benefits you need to communicate.


When we talk to business people we shouldn’t discuss reuse – I believe business people are more interested in how IT can be less constraining and help the organization be more agile. Its wonderful if reuse happens along the way but it shouldn’t be an end goal.


All of the panelists seemed to agree on three things:


  1. SOA is a means, not an end. The cost of change increases exponentially over time – don’t try to boil the ocean. Take baby steps with short iterations and rapid, multiple deliveries.
  2. Do not emphasize SOA in your business case – focus instead upon the business benefits that may be possible after adopting a SOA (service reuse is not necessarily a benefit that will appeal to most business people). Build the business case to drive your ROI, not to build your SOA.
  3. It will take some time for measurable business benefits of to appear – it definitely won’t happen overnight.


It's this last point that we keep forgetting.


So SOA is dead? C'mon guys - we're finally getting our tools to the point where we can start building the loosely coupled solutions we've been promising for the past several years. Now is not the time to be distracted by the next new flashy acronym or a business model based upon old mainframe concepts. The specs are ready, the tools have arrived. Let's stop whining, roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Perhaps its time we push the hype curve into its own trough of disillusionment. Who keeps putting us on these treadmills, anyway?


PS: I also presented a couple of sessions at the National Architect Forum. The presentation from my "Top 10 Architectural Challenges for Workflow" session is available in PPT format. There is a free PPT viewer available if you don't have PowerPoint. Feedback or flames on the presentation are always welcome.