As I am called upon, more and more, to present a clear “vision” for how SOA will occur, I realize that folks are using the same words for two completely different requests.  The trick is to provide both.

The question may be phrased as “Where are we going with SOA?” or “What is our integration story?” or “Why is it so hard to build shared services?”

There are two answers.  I need to provide them both, and if you are sharing vision, you do too.

Regardless of whether you are creating the vision for information quality, or application simplification, or a new way to manage the funding of projects, you need to provide two different vision statements.  In fact, you cannot possibly succeed unless you do.

You see, people like leadership.  They abhor pretentious noisemakers.  There’s a thin line sometimes.  And you can be the leader, instead of the noisemaker by putting yourself in their shoes.  Take the viewpoint of your audience when you share the vision(s).

First off: distant but attainable and highly valuable goal.  You have to show that there is not only light at the end of the tunnel, but that it is the light of nirvana.  You have to really sell a 3-5 year future where things that are broken today are not broken anymore, where folks do good work as a matter of course, and the business is successful. 

Second: the immediate and important first step.  Once people feel like you’ve painted your fantasy future, you need to show them what the first step is.  It has to be a valuable first step.  It has to have some use.  We must all benefit.  It also has to be a little bit painful, to make it clear that this is not a step that folks would take if it weren’t for that big-picture goal.  It has to be emminently feasable, politically attainable, and requires a small number of key changes, mostly affecting a single role.  That way, you have a small audience to influence, while you gain support from the greater community. 

Some people will be motivated more by the distant vision, others by the near term goal.  Regardless, you need both to make real changes occur.

Let’s say you want to bring in Agile development practices.  What would you need to do?

Well, you could convince a single development team to move forward with agile development.  That would work for a while.  But the other teams would not be interested in your success and it wouldn’t matter if it worked or not… after a while, the managers would move to different jobs and the department would revert to bad practices.

On the other hand, you could make your pitch to the CIO and the top level folks, convincing them of the amazing value they will get if they use Agile development practices.  What will you get?  A set of executives now expecting YOU to fix things, regardless of whether you believe you can.

You need to do both.  You need to take a pressing problem, one that is going to get solved, that is going to get funded.  With that problem, you need to convince key folks that the future of the solution is either “elegance” or “chaos” and you have the road to elegance.  However, you tell them, the entire organization cannot change at once, so you want “Just This Project” to adopt the new techniques and that will prove the value.

At the same time, you need to convince the team to take the first step.  Get training and coaching.  Start using some of the techniques.  Start using the terms in conversation.  Tell them that it is a new way and it will require unlearning some of the old habits, but that it will pay for itself.

At every step, you have to keep painting both visions: nirvana someday, effectiveness and value for now.

And then it must work.  If it doesn’t work, you will be set back, but if it does work, you will be ready to demonstrate it’s success to the people who want things to change.  And then, maybe, just maybe, they will sign up for “step 2.”

Two visions, near and far.  Both necessary.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Visions”
  1. So many things to do, so little time, this is what we call a catch-up post SOA Nick starts a new series on Integration with SOA and the CISR Operating Models and adds SOA in the Coordination Models Nick also on a Tale of Two Visions Both Arnon and Nick

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