Quantcast

Towards the Service-Oriented Enterprise

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:


[ Business]

We have argued that fundamental business imperatives-not just technical benefits-drive web services adoption. Decisions such as selecting a technology platform, identifying suitable projects, and joining with business partners all contribute to successful web services applications.

However, the key lesson from the leaders we interviewed for this study is this: successful organizations not only make sound technology choices, but they also balance IT control and business flexibility when applying technology to their business processes. They have realized that the fundamental benefits of service-oriented computing come from a style of adoption that is itself serviceoriented in approach.

What Is a Service-Oriented Enterprise?
If service-oriented architecture represents the technical vision driving web services, then the service-oriented enterprise reflects a change in the human, business process, and organizational governance factors that shape how IT interacts with the business. The well-designed technical backbone of an SOA helps deliver upon the promise of reduced maintenance costs and better interoperability, but it is the application and management of the technology that delivers bottom-line productivity benefits.

Service-oriented management reflects a balance on the pendulum swing between two poles of the IT governance spectrum that are characterized by heavyweight, monolithic projects on one hand and by uncontrolled spending and incompatible efforts on the other. As many companies learned from “big bang” ERP implementations, over-centralization often results in lumbering projects with all-or-nothing value propositions. Conversely, client-funded development reached an extreme at the peak of the late 1990s technology spending bubble. Too many business and IT managers abdicated every measure of normal constraints on application development for the sake of speed, at the cost of countless redundant, and even mutually incompatible, systems.

The service-oriented model tempers these two extremes. It is characterized by a federated approach to governance; smaller, incremental projects; and a recognition that supporting business flexibility is the key metric by which success should be measured.

Service-Oriented Adoption Balances Extremes

IT Model Big Bang Client-Funded Service-Oriented
Typical Projects Business process reengineering New applications for every problem Shared but loosely coupled services
Design Objective Perfect stack Speed to market Incremental leverage
Roll-Out Process Dictate all elements of solution Every developer for him or herself Useful services that make developers’ jobs easier
Governance Model Totalitarian Laissez-faire Federated
Approval Process Lengthy and exhaustive Pay to play Judge common needs but allow for innovation
Value Calculation Five year plans Direct software ROI on software licenses Hedging options and flexibility

A service-oriented enterprise:

Defines business rationale, not technical features, as the key factor for determining IT investments. Especially with a still-evolving model such as web services, every technology choice must be backed by a business objective. Issues to consider include organizational capabilities, current IT assets, the strategic value of innovation, and external market factors. We highlight one tool to begin identifying these considerations later in this report.

Finds a pragmatic balance between technical rigor and time-to-market. Smart IT organizations realize that “perfect” technology stacks cost far more than they deliver, but they also recognize that delivering key functions and reliability of service make it easy for employees and customers to use the software-and drive the desired business results.

Values ongoing flexibility and agility over a one-time efficiency gain. Indeed, the value of an IT investment should be evaluated in much the same way that a financial professional considers a long-term stock option. The future value of adapting to change is worth as much as, if not more than, a simple ROI calculated on its initial cost of implementation.

Invests in a diversified portfolio of applications, not a single packaged application or a technology platform. Diversity reduces risk, allows for accommodating a wider range of future conditions, and creates opportunities to improve the business on many fronts and in many scales.

Federates business processes across business units, trusted partners, and valued customers to balance core advantages and contextual support functions. Not only does minimizing manual processes reduce costs and increases visibility into performance, but it also creates new, and perhaps unexpected, opportunities for value.

Actively manages risk to balance competitive advantage and systemic performance. Risks to consider may include fluctuation in standards and product implementations; procedures designed to ensure the security of systems; and an organization’s ability to build, manage, and leverage software applications.

The Path to the Service-Oriented Enterprise
Realizing the vision of a service-oriented enterprise requires a fresh look at how we apply IT to business requirements. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the essential step is to recognize that implementing new technology will not itself result in meaningful change. Service-oriented architectures, indeed serviceoriented enterprises, are end-states greater than the sum of their individual components.

There is no single map to reach that goal. Businesses with highly centralized IT functions tend to follow a route of systematic planning, architectural design, and focus on key elements of infrastructure. Architecture boards like these are providing incentive for software vendors to develop products and standards that support complex business processes, provide quality of service, and address concerns about security and control of web services-based systems.

By contrast, organizations that have most IT functions distributed across diverse business units are approaching this opportunity in a manner that best is described as “organic.” Developers building a specific application may add a SOAP interface or make use of rapidly proliferating web services development tools to solve a problem more easily or quickly than they might otherwise have done. While the long-term objective of these routes is similar-the basic business productivity benefit of reducing maintenance costs and increasing flexibility, the entry points and trajectories for each can be quite different.

Moreover, each path has advantages and risks. Organic adopters will realize advantages in a much shorter time, but will see those benefits plateau as the need for scalability and coordination increase over time. Systematic planners tend to realize a more efficient infrastructure that scales well as need grows, but too many miss significant real-world advantage by staring in a narcissistic mirror of “perfect architecture.”


Choosing a Balanced Path

The most successful early adopters we interviewed understand the balance and compromises that define the paths towards achieving the vision of a service-oriented enterprise. These IT leaders free developers to experiment and realize the immediate benefits of organic adoption, but they also recognize the need to lay a foundation of infrastructure that helps ensure systematic control and long-term flexibility.

Brent Sleeper is a principal and co-founder of The Stencil Group. This
article originally appeared in the firm’s report, “Web Services Rules:
Real-World Lessons from Early Adopters.” The Stencil Group works with
software companies to understand the business drivers and strategic
priorties that shape their enterprise IT customers’ purchase decisions.
The firm focuses on the bottom-line business impact of technology
solutions through consulting services that include customer needs
analysis, product roadmap and positioning evaluation, and market-facing
sales support.

Towards the Service-Oriented Enterprise
Comments Off
About Brent Sleeper
Brent Sleeper is a principal and co-founder of The Stencil Group. This article originally appeared in the firm's report, "Web Services Rules: Real-World Lessons from Early Adopters." The Stencil Group works with software companies to understand the business drivers and strategic priorties that shape their enterprise IT customers' purchase decisions. The firm focuses on the bottom-line business impact of technology solutions through consulting services that include customer needs analysis, product roadmap and positioning evaluation, and market-facing sales support. WebProNews Writer


Top Rated White Papers and Resources

Comments are closed.

  • Join for Access to Our Exclusive Web Tools
  • Sidebar Top
  • Sidebar Middle
  • Sign Up For The Free Newsletter
  • Sidebar Bottom