Wanted: VP of SOA

ZapThink frequently writes about how organizational, political, and funding issues are typically the greatest challenges facing Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) initiatives in most organizations. Such roadblocks are large and varied: project-based funding approaches impede cross-departmental initiatives, lack of business buy-in marginalizes architectural efforts, and the absence of a committed executive champion can lead to tactical decisions trumping strategic ones just when strategic initiatives like SOA need the most support. Among the various approaches organizations take to overcome such obstacles, one technique is increasing dramatically in popularity: bringing on board a new executive responsible for the enterprise’s SOA initiatives. Finding the right person for this complex, cross-functional role, however, is far from easy. To aid these efforts, therefore, ZapThink presents our take on the job description for your new VP of SOA.

Job Description for the VP of SOA
Visionary, hardworking executive wanted to drive this Fortune 500 or public sector firm’s cross-organizational SOA efforts. The ideal candidate will first and foremost be a business process guru who also has broad experience in IT. Must have a background in architecture and ten-plus years in increasingly senior management roles. Must be able to communicate to both business and technical audiences. The successful candidate will be part team builder, part evangelist, and part bean counter. This position reports directly to the CIO with dotted line responsibility to the COO, and will be responsible for a seven-figure annual budget.

Job responsibilities include:

  • Provide executive-level management leadership to all architecture efforts across the enterprise. The directors of Business Architecture, Enterprise Architecture, Technical Architecture, Data Architecture, and Network Architecture will all be your direct reports.
  • Drive all Business Process Management (BPM) initiatives enterprisewide. Coordinate with process specialists across all lines of business, and drive architectural approaches to business process.
  • Establish and drive a SOA governance board that incorporates the existing IT governance board.
  • Establish and lead the SOA Center of Excellence across the enterprise to pull together and establish core architectural best practices for the entire organization. Develop and enforce a mandate for conformance to such best practices.
  • Establish business-focused Service Domains that bring together Business Services that share a common business context. Create, coordinate, and fund teams to run the Service Domains on behalf of the lines of business as well as IT.
  • Manage a budget that is not tied to individual line-of-business projects, but is rather earmarked for cross-departmental SOA/BPM initiatives that drive business value for the enterprise as a whole.
  • Work closely with the VP of Project Management to insure close cooperation between architecture and project management teams, and to improve project management policies.
  • Establish a day-to-day relationship with the VP of Application Development to drive governance of application development policies, to assist with proper training of personnel, and to insure a productive relationship between architecture and app dev teams.
  • Build a relationship with the VP of Quality to coordinate the organization’s existing quality and process improvement initiatives with the corresponding SOA initiatives, and to drive SOA quality best practices across IT.
  • Work closely with executive management within each line of business to communicate the process improvement and agility benefits of the SOA initiative, to coordinate process definition, improvement, and management activities, and to better align IT capabilities with business needs overall.
  • Interface with the VP of Compliance both to insure that all SOA efforts are in compliance with corporate policies, but also to provide improved governance tooling for corporate compliance efforts.
  • Work with the VP of Operations to insure that the management of Business Services is an integral part of the operations team’s activities, and to incorporate operations representation on the governance board as well as the Center of Excellence.
  • Prepare and deliver quarterly reports to the C-level executive management team on the progress your department has achieved on executing on the enterprise’s core business goals.


Base salary in the $200K range plus substantial bonus. Annual bonus will be based on the following milestones:

  • Business value of Business Services — Your SOA efforts must yield Business Services that deliver quantifiable value to the lines of business.
  • Process improvement — How well you coordinate our BPM and SOA efforts will be measured by quantitative process improvements.
  • Levels of asset reuse — Part of your compensation will be based on how much asset reuse the organization can achieve in practice through the efforts of the SOA initiative.
  • Successful governance — How well your governance initiatives perform will be measured by a combination of a reduction in recognized policy violations as well as surveys of the IT department on the effectiveness of the organization’s governance efforts.
  • Increased agility — Agility will be measured by quantifying the organization’s time-to-market for new products that leverage Business Services as well as business processes that the SOA initiative has improved.

Not Your Everyday Architecture Executive
A few of the criteria for the VP of SOA are worth calling out. First, this role is business process-centric first and architecture-centric second. If the VP of SOA gets this equation reversed, the risk is that the SOA initiative will remain pigeonholed as an IT initiative. However, even though the VP of SOA reports to the CIO, the role is primarily a business role, and the mandated C-level reporting guarantees ongoing visibility into the organizations SOA efforts at the highest levels.

Secondly, the VP of SOA gets to wield a substantial budget that isn’t tied either to any particular line of business (LOB) or to any individual IT silo. Instead, every dollar the VP of SOA wields focuses on cross-departmental, cross-LOB value. Tying the bonus to such value drives home this fact. As a result, hiring a VP of SOA drives the cross-departmental efforts in two ways: through executive leadership as well as through funding.

Third, a major part of the VP of SOA’s role is interacting with a diverse set of people across the organization — fellow executives both in IT and LOB, architects, and others. Perhaps the greatest part of the day-to-day role of this person is as a combination liaison and evangelist. There’s no question that people skills are more important than technology skills for this job.

What’s more, it’s also important to notice that technology is missing entirely from the job description altogether. Java vs. .NET, ESB vs. intermediary, vendor selection, etc. — all left out of the role intentionally. The VP of SOA should be interacting with the IT department on the architecture and governance levels only, not on the technology level.

The ZapThink Take
Your organization may desperately need a VP of SOA even though no one in your company realizes it. In many ways, the VP of SOA position is a fundamentally new role, and the thought process that your firm will have to undertake to consider such a hire will necessarily lead to rethinking how you’ve organized your IT organization, as well as how IT and lines of business interact. The reorganization that results may be every bit as important as the duties of the new executive.

You may wonder, however, whether there exist quality VP of SOA candidates to be had. How plentiful the supply of such people actually is remains to be seen, but the basic question is how many executive-level candidates have the right combination of business process and architecture skills. If your search uncovers such candidates, there’s a good chance one of them will be a fit in this role.

Another question you may have is whether ZapThink is looking for a VP of SOA — or alternately, whether have one that might fit the bill at your organization. Well, we don’t have any off-hand, but we can serve a matchmaking role. So, if you read the above job description and feel that it describes you, then drop us a line at vpofsoa@zapthink.com. Likewise, if you read the description and find you desperately need such a person at your organization, then you should email us at vpofsoa@zapthink.com as well. Who knows? Maybe we’ll make everyone happy!

Download the Full Wanted: VP of SOA Report Here