IT directors should build a case for SOA projects by starting with smaller targets, speakers at the BEA Systems executives annual Arch 2 Arch customer conference in Nice have advised.

Edward Cobb, VP architecture and standards at BEA, said that building the business case for SOA could be tricky, particularly because immediate cost savings were not easily linked to larger projects. As a result, he advised: "It's all about starting small so you can learn how to monitor the benefits and see how your business is becoming more flexible and adaptable."

Kevin O'Donovan, strategic marketing manager at chip vendor Intel, added: "The whole promise of SOA is that it allows companies the ability to make new services efficiently when they are needed."

The benefits of SOA "grow over time ... through a series of small incremental wins" as shared services and the benefits of governance and clear practices take shape, according to Mark Prichard, product marketing director at BEA. In effective SOA projects, there were regular performance assessments which allowed for new targets to be set and changes to be made, he said.

Roman Stanek, SOA director EMEA at HP, agreed that building the case for SOA was easier in businesses that had experienced a range of smaller projects. "The most effective discussions we have are with customers who have been through both pleasure and pain before with SOA," he said. "They are more used to evaluating where and how SOA will help."

The conference centered on how SOA implementations could be lengthy and resource-heavy, but could make processes and use of resources more efficient in the long run. The projects involved many areas of the business, not only IT, but in many cases IT directors were the catalyst for the projects because they were closely involved with business processes, delegates heard.