All organizations have both short term and long-term goals. For most businesses, IT is no longer viewed as a strategic differentiator or even as a strategic enabler. It has become “part of the scenery” at best and, at worst, a hindrance.
The powerful combination of SOA and BPM has the potential to return IT to its former position as an agent for strategic advantage. The optimal value of SOA then is to support initiatives that are aligned with corporate strategy, especially those that focus on a move to exploit BPM.
To this end, many organizations are following the advice of industry analysts to create an SOA Competency Center (SOA CC) that acts as a shared services group to oversee the transition to an Integrated Services Environment (ISE).
The SOA CC ensures that an organization not only adopts the principles of SOA but also makes sure that it is adopted correctly and with the least disruption to the IT organization while supporting business users. This team must comprise members across the organization, from both IT and business.
Traditionally, application deployments were stove-piped or functionally oriented in design. A department had a business need for an application with a specific set of functionalities, and the IT organization would build or buy the application, and then install, configure and maintain it. This process continued across multiple applications and departments. Each time the data and business logic were only available to that application and user community.
For example, the human resources department might use an HR vendor application, the sales and marketing department might use a CRM vendor system and the customer support group might use its own custom application.
The move to an ISE is, at least in part, an evolution from a technology focus to a business focus, from a functional or departmental orientation to a process-orientation.
Integration moves away from the technology focus of subroutines, methods and components to business components that are focused on the discreet and granular events that are part of the business process.
By moving to ever higher levels of abstraction, IT’s deliverables achieve closer alignment with the artifacts of business modeling and begin to close the gulf of understanding between these two organisations that, in truth, rely on each other for their continued existence.
The essence of the ISE and its primary consequence is increased business agility which, like virtue, can be said to be its own reward.
Projects must now be approached with an eye to the future and, more importantly, the re-use of the services created by that application. The company, as well as the project, needs to be aligned to corporate directions.
The move to an ISE is a journey and, like any worthwhile journey, is not completed in a day and is not without costs.
The journey to an ISE rewards bold strokes, requires executive commitment and demands concerted effort in pursuit of a vision.
Ultimately, however, the success or failure of the transition depends on the people who undertake the journey, and it is the human side of SOA that will make or break the project.