Learning from Other Companies Is Critical Around the Entry Points
The companies that master SOA technology can operate more efficiently than their competitors and can more quickly adapt to changing business conditions in their industries. Meeting innovation priorities requires the ability to change flexibly, and companies should take a business-centric view of SOA (as opposed to an IT-centric view) to achieve these innovation goals (see Figure 11.1). As discussed in Chapter 4, "SOA as the DNA of a Flex-pon-sive* and Innovative Company," a recent study of more than 500 companies conducted by Mercer Management Consultants showed that these companies are approaching SOA from entry points of people, process, and information, or all three. The lessons learned from the SOA entry points are furthered by the IBV study about SOA business value. This study of approximately 30 customers reveals some other lessons about revenue growth and cost cutting. 51% of the clients interviewed for this study expected their SOA deployment to grow their revenue, primarily by unlocking the potential of an existing process. To explore this in a real-world setting, review a bank's processes, such as a residential mortgages system, credit card system, or loan-servicing system. Following the IBM case study, an evaluation of those processes should reveal reusable parts, such as "submit loan application," "perform credit check," "determine credit line," or "calculate interest rate." SOA enables IT to recombine these reusable parts to create new products, such as a tailored home equity line of credit. With SOA, the business strategist is free to innovate.
Figure 11.1 Companies are taking an increasingly business-centric approach to SOA.
Source: IBM Global CEO Survey, 2006
Companies that started from one of these entry points have stories to illustrate the lessons that can be learned from other companies' experiences. Enterprise transformation powered by an SOA is really the holy grail the customer seeks. This enterprise transformation can begin with a set of entry point projects as a way for customers to start their transformation journey.
People and Collaboration
Connectivity and Reuse
These case studies show that a central element of SOA is the repeatable business tasks that make up processes with modular, interchangeable software so that reuse is possible. Reuse of these services is one of the main drivers of flexibility. In addition, connectivity through an ESB is a key technology that companies need to select for their needs.
Though in its infancy now, these SOA entry points promise to unleash capability similar to what the Internet—the prior technology evolution of comparable magnitude—already did. Companies employing SOA entry points face more than just technical challenges—there are process challenges and cultural issues, too. In Figure 11.2, you can see an example of how the entry points work in the real world. From the users and consumers at the top, where the services are exposed to people, to the way that processes are broken down into reusable assets made up of application and information components, this picture shows a more powerful, flexible view for companies that can link these pieces together.
Figure 11.2 People, business processes, and information sources interact through SOA.
Source: SOA Community of Practice, SOA Solution Stack Project
A great way to get started on this flexible IT piece of the equation is to take a self-assessment. In fact, with the assessment at www.ibm.com/soa, you can jointly assess both the business readiness and IT readiness. Answering a set of questions about the business, your technology, and your goals shows your location on a maturity curve. It also suggests projects to begin your enterprise transformation and help you learn the areas before a larger rollout.
You should perform these checklist items:
- Understand what other companies are doing with flexibility and SOA
- Determine how your company can best use an SOA entry point
- Take the SOA assessment to see where your company might begin
- Begin a pilot project to learn the SOA framework