Ian Tomlin

Building the Agile Enterprise powered by Services Oriented Architecture

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I've just completed a paper on Services Oriented Architecture to provide an overview for business and IT leaders of the 'must-do-wells' and critical success factors of implementation.

The key topics I cover are:


While I've been researching SOA, there are definitely two schools of thought emerging:

1. The IT purist's view that sees SOA in its technology-centric view
2. The business architect's view that sees services-oriented computing as a technology enabler to business transformation towards a more agile structure.

Here's a taster...

In the face of near-constant changes to market conditions, the design of the enterprise is itself changing. Today, business agility - the ability to adapt to market conditions - is recognized as an important competitive differentiator. But hampering business agility, and therefore growth, is the ability of information systems to adapt in line with organizational information demands.

Enterprise information management systems represent huge investments by companies to optimize their business processes and leverage their corporate information assets. They take a long time to get right, and they're not so easy to change.

For business managers, exploiting the knowledge they're already acquired is hampered by the complexity of IT systems architectures made up of many discrete and isolated data repositories originally designed to serve operating silos and peculiar business processes.

And responding to knowledge worker requests for new applications in response to the business situations facing the enterprise is inhibited not just by corporate capacity but by the high cost of change and the need to repeatedly invest in new software or fund high-risk development projects.

The consequence on businesses is that talented managers lack the insights and optimized processes they need to adapt and respond to new market situations, opportunities and competitive threats.

An approach to creating so-called AGILE IT is to adopt a 'services-oriented' information management architecture.

The underlying ethos of this approach is to enable 'information consumers' to serve themselves with the new views of information and new applications they demand through composite applications that are able to harvest pre-structured data feeds from disparate back-office systems and public sources. The holy grail is to completely remove the frictional cost of transforming IT systems and one of the major ingredients to make this possible is to remove the complexity (and therefore IT skills) required of today's IT business analysts and software applications developers.

In its purest sense, Services Oriented Architecture describes the use of services to support business requirements. As such SOA utilizes a combination of existing and new enabling technologies. A "service" may encapsulate an entire business process, or embody one or more aspects of an existing business process. XML-based Web Services are a popular way to expose these services within and across enterprises, but are by no means the only way to realize an SOA vision.

Thought leaders of SOA see it not as yet another technology hype-curve, but as a fundamental shift in the persona of enterprise information management architecture away from a state where all data is 'owned' by the enterprise and IT professionals are responsible for the security, provisioning and management of all data consumed by the enterprise, to a state where information workers, as consumers of 'information services', are provided with the tools and competencies to serve themselves with the information that matters most to them through systems shaped by themselves for their own purposes operating within a regimented corporate computing environment protecting the best interests of the enterprise.

Seen through this broader definition, SOA is not a move from one enterprise computing architecture to another, but the definitive technology enabler to transition organizational design from an inflexible top-down command and control system to something more agile and innovative. For this reason, SOA is progressively reaching into the boardroom as a key competitive differentiator; pulling through in its wake new innovations in IT that include cloud computing, business social networking, enterprise mashups, business intelligence and master data management.

To download a full version of the paper follow the link.

My blog focuses on agile organizational design and related information management technologies such as cloud computing, net.working, social collaboration, data integration and meshing, business insights and code-free applications design.

Ian Tomlin

Ian Tomlin is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on the subject of agile organizational design and associated technologies.


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