There has been a fair amount of chatter lately about defending the value of SOA projects or justifying such projects to the “C-level”. Many of these discussions will point at the business value of doing more with less and achieving IT cost reduction by reducing redundant systems and reuse of services in a SOA. Also streamlining processes in order to run the business more efficiently is a popular opinion,
which I agree with. David Linthicum in his blog summarizes a few of the points - http://weblog.infoworld.com/realworldsoa/archives/2008/01/more_on_defendi.html
Delivering business value from SOA is not a new concept. I have written a fair amount about the topic over the years: http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-6108621.html and http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2005/02/extracting_business_value_from.html.
Today, similar to a few years ago, extracting business value from SOA and using SOA initiatives as a means for aligning IT with the business is critical. Many of the same points are also relevant to “defending SOA” today.
To sum it up, I have always believed that the real business value of SOA is not so much about IT cost reduction but really about being able to react quickly to change.
Overall, the main business value of building a SOA is the ability to react quickly to changing business conditions including changing economic conditions. During such times executives need to be at the helm more than ever. Competitors will take drastic measures and you must be able to quickly alert, measure, and react, and measure again in order to quickly assess the effectiveness of your course corrections. Having flexible business processes, which can be changed without requiring a considerable engineering effort, tied into realtime analysis and metrics made available through things like BAM dashboards can help tremendously in that type of dynamic environment.
I have always been a strong proponent of approaching SOA by identifying projects that can achieve demonstrable ROI within a matter of months, and that this needs to be accompanied by the longer term vision of where you need to get to in order to be successful. This still holds true regardless of economic conditions or IT budgets.
One could even argue that if you weren’t already building SOA projects with these things in mind, then perhaps they were misguided to begin with.