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SOA, Governance, and Drugs

Why is IT governance important in service oriented architecture (SOA)? IT Governance provides a framework for making appropriate decisions based on company guidelines and accepted standards. This framework also outlines each stakeholder’s responsibilities and authority when making important architectural or design decisions. Furthermore, this framework of governance defines parameters and constraints that are used to give context and perspective when making decisions.

The use of governance as it applies to SOA ensures that specific design principles and patterns are used when developing and maintaining services. When governance is consistently applied systems the following benefits are achieved according to Anne Thomas Manes in 2010.

  • Governance makes sure that services conform to standard interface patterns, common data modeling practices, and promotes the incorporation of existing system functionality by building on top of other available services across a system.
  • Governance defines development standards based on proven design principles and patterns that promote reuse and composition.
  • Governance provides developers a set of proven design principles, standards and practices that promote the reduction in system based component dependencies.  By following these guidelines, individual components will be easier to maintain.

For me personally, I am a fan of IT governance, and feel that it valuable part of any corporate IT department. However, depending on how it is implemented can really affect the value of using IT governance.  Companies need to find a way to ensure that governance does not become extreme in its policies and procedures. I know for me personally, I would really dislike working under a completely totalitarian or laissez-faire version of governance. Developers need to be able to be creative in their designs and too much governance can really impede the design process and prevent the most optimal design from being developed. On the other hand, with no governance enforced, no standards will be followed and accepted design patterns will be ignored. I have personally had to spend a lot of time working on this particular scenario and I have found that the concept of code reuse and composition is almost nonexistent.  Based on this, too much time and money is wasted on redeveloping existing aspects of an application that already exist within the system as a whole.
I think moving forward we will see a staggered form of IT governance, regardless if it is for SOA or IT in general.  Depending on the size of a company and the size of its IT department,  I can see IT governance as a layered approach in that the top layer will be defined by enterprise architects that focus on abstract concepts pertaining to high level design, general  guidelines, acceptable best practices, and recommended design patterns.
The next layer will be defined by solution architects or department managers that further expand on abstracted guidelines defined by the enterprise architects. This layer will contain further definitions as to when various design patterns, coding standards, and best practices are to be applied based on the context of the solutions that are being developed by the department.
The final layer will be defined by the system designer or a solutions architect assed to a project in that they will define what design patterns will be used in a solution, naming conventions, as well as outline how a system will function based on the best practices defined by the previous layers.
This layered approach allows for IT departments to be flexible in that system designers have creative leeway in designing solutions to meet the needs of the business, but they must operate within the confines of the abstracted IT governance guidelines.  A real world example of this can be seen in the United States as it pertains to governance of the people in that the US government defines rules and regulations in the abstract and then the state governments take these guidelines and applies them based on the will of the people in each individual state. Furthermore, the county or city governments are the ones that actually enforce these rules based on how they are interpreted by local community.  To further define my example, the United States government defines that marijuana is illegal. Each individual state has the option to determine this regulation as it wishes in that the state of Florida determines that all uses of the drug are illegal, but the state of California legally allows the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes only. Based on these accepted practices each local government enforces these rules in that a police officer will arrest anyone in the state of Florida for having this drug on them if they walk down the street, but in California if a person has a medical prescription for the drug they will not get arrested.
Thomas Manes, Anne. (2010). Understanding SOA Governance:

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