Is ‘Business-Driven SOA’ the way forward to SOA Success?

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Business Relationship Manager - Product Lifecycle Management, Chevron Corporation

Why do most IT professionals when they talk of SOA talk about products not processes?

Millions of marketing dollars are spent by vendors. Consultants purport to be experts ‘delivering’ projects using SOA tools and methodologies. Yet, if SOA is successful in delivering business change why don’t we see measureable evidence of this change?

Conversations with clients always lead to discussing tools and that they have purchased one or more as part of their SOA initiatives and that will provide their SOA.

SOA is not about technology, but about business change

Most SOA initiatives are currently driven and managed by IT departments with support from architecture teams focused on looking at a ‘stack’ from a major vendor that give them a ‘SOA’. Most find, after a vendor has convinced clients that their ‘stack’ is the right one, that you get some tools. No attention is paid to the best of utilizing this architecture for business change.

A different approach is needed. An approach driven, owned and managed by the business in partnership with IT. ‘Business Driven SOA’ is an approach that focuses on driving change from the analysis design and delivery of a complete Business Architecture. The Business Architecture is motivated by the aligning not just the business case for a project, but the core business and market strategy of the enterprise.

The maturity of most SOA initiatives is currently at project or departmental level and therefore, aligning the complete business strategy is difficult.  But this can be done through a continuous migration synchronized with delivering business value. A number of key areas need to be focused upon to do this:

Business Functional Model. A business functional model defines and documents the key functions of the organization and further detail on these functions. This enables a business driven SOA initiative to look at how the enterprise is organized and works today. A current state model needs to be produced together with a roadmap, aligned to business strategy for how the organization will be changed.

Business Processes. The key element of any business is to define and model business processes at all levels. Documenting and understanding of these business processes will help drive the re-engineering of those processes and flesh out re-useable ‘process patterns’. Process patterns will facilitate in further analysis to derive ‘business services’ in a top down approach.

Business Economic Model (later aligned to the Services Economic Model).  Another key facet of the work in business architecture is to understand, and take input from, the business strategies and growth/change envisaged in the enterprise business model.  It must be tied to the Service Economic Model (SEM). A SEM Model creates a close relationship with the Business Economic Model (BEM) ensuring that business cases and drivers are closely aligned to what is delivered by an SOA Program. For example, there will be key drivers around reducing operational risk, or increasing business flexibility or profitability drivers such as increasing revenue or decreasing costs.

Operating and Organizational Model. A detailed review of the organizational model is needed in the longer term to transform any enterprise to leverage the use of a service model. In addition a ‘Governance Model’ oversees the management and control of the service lifecycle from how services are designed, created, used and supported when they are implemented.

Underlying these key artifacts must be the information model of an enterprise. This must be a business representation of all structured information held and manipulated within the enterprise. Common information standards, definitions, access mechanisms must be also be designed and implemented and used as part of the SOA program.

These artifacts are by no-means exhaustive. There are also a large number of iterative steps such as defining services and the granularity of those services fed by the functional architecture and business processes.

Rethink your approach

To deliver value and transform an enterprise to be more flexible and agile and leverage the benefits that SOA can provide, a rethink is needed to a better approach in implementing SOA. This should be driven by business not technology change. Further, ensure that the there is bridge between business and IT, with resources that can understand and work as part of a joint program.

Communicate the business benefit to the key stakeholders and help them understand why a project using a Services Model’ is the paradigm of the future, without resorting to discussing technology platforms and vendors.

Once the business change model is devised and implemented across the enterprise, tied to the business benefits of that enterprise, any SOA initiative can succeed. Be prepared for a multi-year change journey – SOA is not a tactical fix, or integration solution it is the opportunity for successful business change.

Our industry has an opportunity to finally convince the business that IT departments do understand the business and are willing embrace ‘business driven SOA’.

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