This is a guest post from Joe McKendrick of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can follow Joe on his ZDNet blog Service Oriented, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

My pal Steve Swoyer just published a piece over at Visual Studio surfacing a Gartner observation that many companies may have fallen into a “herd mentality” when it comes to SOA. That is, they do SOA because everyone else seems to be doing it.

As explored here on this blogsite a couple of weeks back, Gartner found that 40% of companies with SOA projects don’t bother to measure the results or ROI. (Is that good or bad compared with other initiatives? They didn’t say.) But the takeaway is that there are a lot of SOA efforts going on out there, but with no sense if they’re delivering or not.

Gartner’s advice: start small, identify specific business benefits, and focus on achieving them.

Here are some points that can be measured to determine if service orientation is delivering, courtesy of Gartner:

  1. Improved efficiency, particularly with respect to business processes execution
  2. Lower process administrative costs
  3. Higher visibility on existing/running business processes
  4. Reduced number of manual, paper-based steps
  5. Better service-level effectiveness
  6. Quicker implementation of processes
  7. Quicker time to market
  8. Shorter (overall) project cycles
  9. Overall reduction in the total cost of application development and maintenance

Steve also relays this bit of advice: avoid reflexive thinking – either pro or con. “If implementing SOA for the sake of implementing SOA isn’t a viable strategy, neither for that matter is a knee-jerk dismissal of the benefits of SOA as ambiguous or unattainable.” Get the numbers to back up the argument either way.