A critical skills shortage is holding back the widespread use of service oriented architectures (SOA) and the promise of a new era of interoperability, according Tony Clement, enterprise architecture and planning manager for the Australian Wheat Board.

The big challenge of SOA, he said, is the level of implementation detail required to take the business forward. Clement said analysts don’t know SOA at an implementation level, and the implementation folks are just figuring it out.

“You may as well have those skills in-house, it will make you more agile,” Clement said, adding he was forced to build the required skills internally by training J2EE developers and solutions architects. “Give them the opportunity to grab this and to learn,” he said.

Clement also expressed disappointment at the level of SOA skills available via IT service providers.

“It wouldn’t be difficult to find a development partner, but the question is whether they can deliver,” he said.

Clement is undertaking an SOA project to increase information interoperability in the wheat industry and help remove manual processes. The internal infrastructure is still being built.

“We really need to get an SOA and messaging-based services framework up and working internally before we can aggressively engage external parties,” he said. “Most stumbling blocks involve trying to build the architecture around existing application – basically evolving current architecture. From the technology side that is the real issue.”