Much has been written about the promise of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) for unleashing business potential by simplifying systems and achieving competitive differentiation, writes Mike Rogers, senior manager: technology & delivery at Accenture South Africa.

Yet the ability for an enterprise to realise high performance with service-oriented architecture lies largely with its CIO’s ability to address a number of key IT challenges.
As a result of SOA, businesses can achieve better alignment through process optimisation and differentiated capability. Yet, in order to realise this compelling new promise of high performance, organisations will need to examine their current IT strategy with a perspective that reflects the new realities of SOA.
To create an IT environment that maximises the benefits of an SOA approach, Rogers cites the following challenges for CIOs:
* Platform competency.  While SOA technology is platform independent, the question becomes one of how SOA changes or augments the organisation’s existing major technology platform and its past investments.
* Application portfolio rationalisation.  This involves extending the life of legacy applications and determining how SOA will change the existing platform.
* Architectural standards and interoperability.  This boils down to the evolution of standards – determining which standards should be maintained and to what extent those standards should be deployed.
* Data architecture.  With a process that spans across multiple applications, the critical question becomes a simple one:  Who owns the data? The ability to model business processes and services and create definitions for data across the organisation also becomes critical.
* Infrastructure and operations.  The introduction of an SOA environment raises questions with regard to changes in network and hardware requirements as well as adequate storage.
* IT organisation and governance of enterprise architecture.  Decisions will need to be made around ownership of the business process and, as a result, determining who has the influence to make the necessary changes to the underlying applications to support that process.
* Methods and tools.  CIOs must consider how SOA affects the current methodology used to modify, build and integrate systems.  Most organisations probably don’t have a methodology for service orchestration, so it will probably have to be added.
* Testing and quality assurance.   To ensure service availability, CIOs must develop service level agreements and enforce policy.  The organisation must consider the methodologies required, the necessary testing regimes and the appropriate improvements to techniques, tools and planning.
* Security. The issue for a process that spans across multiple applications is whether new security holes have been introduced into the environment and, with a service that extends beyond or outside of the company, whether new security concerns have been introduced.
* Training.  There are certain skill sets currently housed within an organisation and so with the introduction of SOA the CIO must examine its impact on the need for additional training.