Collaboration Under SOA: The Human Aspects

This book chapter from Executing SOA: A Practical Guide for the Service-Oriented Architect shows how Web 2.0 business concepts apply to businesses, especially those enterprises that adhere to the philosophy of SOA.

In the previous chapters, we concentrated on technical and organizational aspects of SOA in the enterprise. We provided practical hints and experiences for setting up the IT development. But, SOA is like other innovations, not just another technology the IT shop incorporates. Each time a new technology is introduced or innovative technologies are applied in the enterprise, humans are involved: Employees, managers, business partners, and the customers decide whether a change is successful.

Excerpt from Executing SOA: A Practical Guide for the Service-Oriented Architect

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This chapter discusses the development of working in a service-oriented enterprise and how the SOA-based infrastructure enables people to collaborate more effectively and receive benefits of the enterprise. An important part in this is the human interface, the way the IT systems are presented to the user. Especially in this context, we highlight the impact of new technologies that arrived with Web 2.0 in the company and the organizational changes that benefit from them.

8.1 What Does SOA Mean to People?

Before discussing the technical solutions and tools, it is important to look at the impact of an SOA-based infrastructure on an organization and its people. As stated in Chapter 2 of Service-Oriented Architecture Compass (Bieberstein et al. 2006), business agility is a major goal of SOA-based infrastructure. This cannot be achieved with just new IT infrastructure; it also requires organizational changes. Those changes involve different ways to build IT solutions, to utilize the reuse of enterprise assets at large as we discussed earlier, and to care for appropriate governance in the enterprise.

Any change to the system results in an impact on the people working in the enterprise. In SOA for Profit (van den Berg et al. 2007), the authors describe the change in enterprise operation, a business transformation that is most important for getting the desired results from becoming an SOA-based company.

On one hand, the changes involve new or changed roles that reflect cooperation under the service-oriented paradigm; on the other hand, the changes involve employee and management behavioral changes. Naturally, as with any change or new idea, you will encounter resistance and overly enthusiastic acceptance. It is the task of the leadership teams, the company management, to moderate the emotions and to manage the change process.

8.1.1 The Service-Oriented-People in the Enterprise

In Chapter 3, "SOA Governance," we outlined the SOA governance structure and organization of authorities for a service-oriented operation in the company. Now, we summarize the key ideas that are important or indispensable for the service-oriented people in the enterprise—let's call them the SO-managers and SO-employees.


  • Primarily act as observers instead of directors (who issue top-down orders).

  • Monitor the business (adequate tools and systems support this).

  • Define rules and processes, such as building a constitution that includes the fundamental laws for the company (golden rule or constitution).

  • Recognize talents and temperaments as well as know the skills of the employees to staff roles/pools (act as mentors for personal development—especially matching talents and temperaments, not just acquired skills and experiences, to the tasks).

  • Allow satisfying freedom to the employees under the set rules (equivalent to the loosely coupling of services in an SOA).

  • Motivate employees by addressing the individual talents and preferred tasks. (This applies especially to people managers who are responsible for dedicated teams, versus business generals who are in charge of the overall corporate directions and are not dealing with daily execution at the bottom.)


  • Get information and take initiatives (solving tasks autonomously by acting and cooperating with best matching peers).

  • Execute the tasks that are necessary to satisfy customer demands. (Employees should be empowered to perform the company rules and processes and not have to be entitled to single actions by their managers.)

  • Build ad hoc teams and organize their work within the legal framework. (Incentives and punishments can be used to enforce this.)

  • Know their strengths and publish them (populating the employee repository accordingly) to become engaged (the individual employee advertises one's capabilities, preferences, and strengths to the company to get the work to the person who can do it best).

  • Offer services and act (publishing experience records and service offerings within the enterprise repository).

  • Maintain motivation by working on what they do best and being directly recognized for achievements. (Peer reviews, awards, and suitable incentives support this.)

Most of the items in the previous lists can be reached in a company when both sides, managers and employees, get together to define business transformation goals and a path to reach them. Certainly, education is required to gain support and understanding for why the transformation goals will help the enterprise and, even more important, who the individuals involved will be. With an SOA-based organization and a motivated team, the enterprise can become as agile as expected.

In a way, we see the roles and responsibilities of managers and employees, executives, and professionals changing toward a more service-oriented behavior, which requires the listed personal qualities. Summarizing, we can state that a manager in a service-oriented enterprise becomes more the role of a thoughtful leader, one who thinks out the services framework their company can offer under the corporate strategy as set by the business generals. More details about how to govern the enterprise in a loosely coupled manner are given in the IBM Systems Journal article by Bieberstein et al. (SJ44-4 of 2005).

In turn, the individual employees are getting more active to perform within the given framework. To achieve agility, each individual will advertise one's services in an enterprise repository, specifically skills, expertise, talents, and other reasonable data. In the case of a project requested by a customer, project managers or other people in charge will look in the repository to find the most suitable professionals.

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