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IBM Survey: SOA Discussion Moves From IT Staff Roundtables to Executive Agenda


IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the results of a survey of clients that concludes the strategic decisions to adopt a service oriented architecture (SOA) are shifting away from the realm of IT staffers to business executives. SOA is a business strategy that helps a company reuse existing technology to more closely align it with business goals, driving efficiencies, cost savings, productivity, and enabling the creation of more modular and global business designs.

The survey was conducted for IBM by the Link Group and consisted of a sampling of clients at the IBM Impact 2007 event, which drew more than 4,200 technical and business leaders. The survey validates a fundamental commitment to SOA as the future of process and application design -- with both significant increases in budgets and the number of SOA projects aimed at new business challenges. At the same time, the survey also found that there is an increasing need for training staff so they possess the unique combination of both business and IT skills required for a business to realize the potential of SOA.

The survey also revealed that 67 percent of the respondents said the key decision makers responsible for moving to an SOA strategy are business leaders including C-level executives and business managers. Additionally, 65 percent of clients said that business leaders are also primarily responsible for selecting an IT partner to help achieve business goals in an SOA.

“Business leaders not engaged in the SOA decision making process will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” said Robert LeBlanc, general manager Business Consulting Services and SOA, IBM. “With its focus on optimizing and automating specific business processes and eliminating redundant ones, it is business leaders that will drive the adoption of SOA from early stages to enterprise wide adoption.”

Additional findings include:

SOA Skills

There is a shortage of required SOA skills in the marketplace today according to the respondents. Currently, half the respondents said they have less than 25 percent of the necessary SOA skills to help their company meet long term goals. However, 80 percent of respondents are increasing SOA skills in their company this year, with more than 60 percent focused on retraining existing staff on SOA. A combination of business and IT skills was cited by 68 percent of the respondents as prerequisite to applying SOA to meet business goals.

SOA Budgets

As has been reported by many leading analysts, today’s successful companies are allocating a substantial portion of their IT budgets to SOA projects. This year 40 percent of respondents indicated that between 10 and 30 percent of overall IT budgets are being spent on SOA projects. Additionally 53 percent of respondents indicated that their budgets for SOA projects for 2007 increased between 10 and 20 percent compared to 2006.

Reasons for Using SOA

To help clients keep up with the rapidly changing and competitive market, 75 percent of the respondents said the primary reason for implementing SOA is to meet new business goals, versus 25 percent that cited fixing existing business problems.

IBM recently made a series of announcements that directly address many of the survey’s findings.

To address the need for the right skills, IBM recently announced it is developing a new, interactive SOA game called Innov8: A BPM Simulator, an interactive, 3-D educational game simulator designed to bridge the gap in understanding between IT teams and business leaders in an organization. This type of serious gaming -- simulations which have the look and feel of a game but correspond to non-game events or processes such as business operations -- has emerged as a successful method to retrain or develop new skills. The game, which is played with a joy stick, is based on advanced, commercial gaming technologies and allows players to visualize how an SOA affects different parts of the organization. Together, users can literally see business processes, identify bottlenecks, and explore ’what if’ scenarios before the SOA is deployed.

To help business leaders better understand the various stages of SOA evaluation and deployment, IBM announced plans for eight new industry-specific SOA Roadmaps spanning six industries. Each of the SOA roadmaps contains a business blueprint, which helps customers map the business side of an SOA strategy, and an industry-specific framework, which includes core technology used to execute the business blueprint. The new SOA Roadmaps focus on critical business process areas within a given industry.

Additionally IBM announced six new SOA professional services focused on SOA Diagnostic, SOA Strategy, SOA Implementation Planning, Business Process Management Enabled by SOA, SOA Design Development and Integration, and SOA Management. New capabilities include infrastructure and strategy workshops for SOA Strategy professional services, web application and portal infrastructure services for SOA Design, Development and Integration and a new testing center of excellence for SOA management.

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