Engaging with business - an essential ingredient for SOA

For best results form a team with representation from the business areas

A recent Computerworld feature on SOA focused on the holistic engagement of IT departments in order to ensure the success of an SOA venture. Also discussed was the need to have a perspective on business when targeting SOA.

Although recommended, a perspective on business is not enough to attain true SOA. In order to achieve it, an SOA motivated team must seek to engage and build a relationship with business from the beginning. By working directly with business two benefits occur - business is naturally educated on SOA while at the same time the SOA team learns more about the business problem at hand and how best to structure project ROI.

The ROI of SOA projects are seen as elusive but it need not be. With the general recommendation of 'start small' and 'grow incrementally', one of the most important steps in the SOA journey is to focus on seeking out services that have a high business value with low technical impact. SOA should be seen as a long-term agenda which is achieved through a series of short-term successes.

Typically, SOA value propositions centre on reuse, solving the integration problem and increased agility. The challenge is to be able to relate this directly to the bottom line in order to secure funding. But how can SOA drive short term business value?

Finding the right place to start need not be difficult. The best results can be achieved by forming a team that includes representation across the business areas so that services and their impact on the business strategy and vision can be easily identified. Once the service landscape is understood it is possible to identify an early candidate for a project and drive a focused business case.

Methods for achieving this are being explored by various organizations. IBM includes this in its Service-Oriented Modeling and Architecture (SOMA) while Microsoft offers its Motion initiative for mapping business value to IT initiatives. Similar approaches can also be found from Oracle, BEA and SAP. It must be noted that this is not just limited to vendors. OASIS is also exploring business level mapping methods with the SOA Adoption Blueprint.

In each case it has been recognized that value can be attributed to SOA by analyzing the process problem and linking the solution to business services. By starting small and expanding the offering, each organization has built up a library of business services and a methodology designed to add business value rapidly.

This approach need not be limited to software vendors. IT departments can use a similar approach to implementing SOA. The result is that as more and more business services are discovered and implemented, greater investment can be made into the infrastructure to satisfy the lifecycle requirements of SOA. Over time as the SOA capability increases and the ability of develop new services grows, ensuring the necessary momentum to achieve a successful SOA infrastructure.

Dimitri Spyridopoulos is managing director of Sydney-based IT consulting firm Glintech.

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