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3.5 Four Pillars of Service-Orientation

As previously explained, service-orientation provides us with a well-defined method for shaping software programs into units of service-oriented logic that we can legitimately refer to as services. Each such service that we deliver takes us a step closer to achieving the desired target state represented by the aforementioned strategic goals and benefits.

Proven practices, patterns, principles, and technologies exist in support of service-orientation. However, because of the distinctly strategic nature of the target state that service-orientation aims to establish, there is a set of fundamental critical success factors that act as common prerequisites for its successful adoption. These critical success factors are referred to as pillars because they collectively establish a sound and healthy foundation upon which to build, deploy, and govern services.

The four pillars of service-orientation are

  • Teamwork – Cross-project teams and cooperation are required.

  • Education – Team members must communicate and cooperate based on common knowledge and understanding.

  • Discipline – Team members must apply their common knowledge consistently.

  • Balanced Scope – The extent to which the required levels of Teamwork, Education, and Discipline need to be realized is represented by a meaningful yet manageable scope.

The existence of these four pillars is considered essential to any SOA initiative. The absence of any one of these pillars to a significant extent introduces a major risk factor. If such an absence is identified in the early planning stages, it can warrant not proceeding with the project until it has been addressed—or the project’s scope has been reduced.



Whereas traditional silo-based applications require cooperation among members of individual project teams, the delivery of services and service-oriented solutions requires cooperation across multiple project teams. The scope of the required teamwork is noticeably larger and can introduce new dynamics, new project roles, and the need to forge and maintain new relationships among individuals and departments. Those on the overall SOA team need to trust and rely on each other; otherwise the team will fail.



A key factor to realizing the reliability and trust required by SOA team members is to ensure that they use a common communications framework based on common vocabulary, definitions, concepts, methods, and a common understanding of the target state the team is collectively working to attain. To achieve this common understanding requires common education, not just in general topics pertaining to service-orientation, SOA, and service technologies, but also in specific principles, patterns, and practices, as well as established standards, policies, and methodology specific to the organization.

Combining the pillars of teamwork and education establishes a foundation of knowledge and an understanding of how to use that knowledge among members of the SOA team. The resulting clarity eliminates many of the common risks that have traditionally plagued SOA projects.



A critical success factor for any SOA initiative is consistency in how knowledge and practices among a cooperative team are used and applied. To be successful as a whole, team members must therefore be disciplined in how they apply their knowledge and in how they carry out their respective roles. Required measures of discipline are commonly expressed in methodology, modeling, and design standards, as well as governance precepts. Even with the best intentions, an educated and cooperative team will fail without discipline.

Balanced Scope

So far we’ve established that we need:

  • cooperative teams that have…

  • a common understanding and education pertaining to industry and enterprise-specific knowledge areas and that…

  • we need to consistently cooperate as a team, apply our understanding, and follow a common methodology and standards in a disciplined manner.

In some IT enterprises, especially those with a long history of building silo-based applications, achieving these qualities can be challenging. Cultural, political, and various other forms of organizational issues can arise to make it difficult to attain the necessary organizational changes required by these three pillars. How then can they be realistically achieved? It all comes down to defining a balanced scope of adoption.

The scope of adoption needs to be meaningfully cross-silo, while also realistically manageable. This requires the definition of a balanced scope of adoption of service-orientation.

Once a balanced scope of adoption has been defined, this scope determines the extent to which the other three pillars need to be established. Conversely, the extent to which you can realize the other three pillars will influence how you determine the scope (Figure 3.35).

Figure 3.35

Figure 3.35 The Balanced Scope pillar encompasses and sets the scope at which the other three pillars are applied for a given adoption effort.

Common factors involved in determining a balanced scope include:

  • Cultural obstacles

  • Authority structures

  • Geography

  • Business domain alignment

  • Available stakeholder support and funding

  • Available IT resources

A single organization can choose one or more balanced adoption scopes (Figure 3.36). Having multiple scopes results in a domain-based approach to adoption. Each domain establishes a boundary for an inventory of services. Among domains, adoption of service-orientation and the delivery of services can occur independently. This does not result in application silos; it establishes meaningful service domains (also known as “continents of services”) within the IT enterprise.

Figure 3.36

Figure 3.36 Multiple balanced scopes can exist within the same IT enterprise. Each represents a separate domain service inventory that is independently standardized, owned, and governed.

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