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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

How SOA Moves IT-Business Alignment a Bit Closer to Reality

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Business-IT alignment... Has a day gone by over the past ten years that we have not heard that phrase?

While it seems to be a constant but elusive dream -- like peace on Earth -- some companies indicate that SOA may be moving them closer to reality.

Fellow ebizQ colleague James Taylor, out at the IBM Impact confab this week, provides an account of an end-user customer panel on the ever-vexing challenge of business-IT alignment. Is service-oriented architecture helping to bring about some of this alignment?

A panel of corporate practitioners talked about their SOA efforts, and the impact SOA was having on alignment -- a positive impact, by the way. James reports that Randy Wallace from Michelin said one of his company's biggest challenges is "B2B with lots of billers to interface directly in their order management systems so, for instance, allow dealers to integrate orders with Michelin. They are currently evolving their order-to-cash system using Process Server and SOA."

Who much alignment has Michelin seen? According to Wallace, the company has come a long way, "from having a very small percentage of IT spend aligned with key business goals (6%) to one that is much more so (81%)."

That's pretty impressive. Wallace cited some examples: "For instance, in the past business units in different regions picked i2 and Manugistics at the same time and both were implemented resulting in separate systems. A stronger governance process and overall architecture are now established, driven by business ambitions and regularly updated. Far fewer and more focused projects as a result. Senior executive user satisfaction has risen steadily."

Austin Waldron from Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC) said his company's "focus is on using SOA in legacy modernization where many disparate systems are being replaced by a unified set of shared services. The governance issues seem to have been key for HCSC."

Waldron also talked about moving closer to business-IT alignment. "They had some years of IT spend focused more on basic IT infrastructure (security, robustness etc) but now investments much more driven by the business strategy."

Another panalist talked about more alignment at the front lines of the business. Jeff Auker from The Hartford "talked about challenge of consumer front-ends. Consumers working directly with The Hartford now expect a much more interactive online experience for sales and service - this is being driven by GEICO and Progressive’s campaigns. SOA is key because they have some front-ends that are tightly integrated with very old back-ends and SOA let’s them decouple them."

Thanks again to James Taylor for this report .

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In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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