T-Mobile has encouraged enterprises considering running service oriented architecture projects (SOA) to select their advisers carefully.

The complex, long running nature of SOA projects means they require a large commitment from the firms involved and are serious strategic decisions. Full projects regularly take between five and 10 years, and the new ways businesses work as a result means they are required to evolve many of their operations, not just IT.

T-Mobile’s ongoing SOA project was triggered in the late 1990s by the decision to develop a ring back service and to make sure it had high capabilities. As this began to work, the company decided to automate more projects and create better governance and across its national divisions, including its successful UK arm, by using SOA.

The company uses a combination of proprietary technology and software such as Rendezvous and Java Message Service. Since autumn last year, T-Mobile has employed BEA Systems’ consulting arm to advise it on the right steps to ensure correct governance, as well as to create an SOA ‘dashboard’ to monitor the changes.

Florian Mösch, VP enterprise integration and architecture at the telecommunications firm, told Computerworld UK that choosing the right consultant was very important considering the gravity of SOA projects.

“Many consulting firms have their heads up in the clouds and others just tell you everything will be fine. What you actually want as a customer is for someone to listen to what you want and understand your business rather than making unrealistic promises,” he explained at BEA Systems’ annual Arch 2 Arch customer conference in Nice.

Mösch said T-Mobile chose BEA’s consulting division because its business needs were being listened to: “What they were saying hit the nail on the head, and they were coming up with sensible and structured ideas.” T-Mobile consulted other unnamed firms offering SOA consultancy, but was not as impressed by what they had to offer.

He is also pleased with BEA’s abilities on the job so far, and said: “They had enough knowledge of the telecommunications industry and of our own complex situation to produce valuable results. They were clear about what was realistic and deliverable, what would be involved and how long it would take. There are not many people you can honestly say would do that properly.”

While BEA Systems is predominantly known as a software firm offering products to help structure SOA projects, it also has a 450 strong consulting wing which purports to be of a sensible size to have a decent understanding of its clients and a good control of their projects.

Malhar Kamdar, VP EMEA at the consulting wing, explained: “Our small size permits us to know what is going on in each industry and each client business, and we don’t have the constraints of the large system integrators. We’re not in the volume game, we’re into providing the right services.” Several times each year BEA brings together all its consultants to discuss best practice and exchange ideas.

T-Mobile remained convinced that businesses considering SOA also need to remember the importance of being prepared to wait for results. “The three lessons I’ve learned are: 1. Be patient, 2. Be even more patient and 3. Don’t underestimate the complexity of the projects,” Mösch advised.