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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Business Architecture Ready for Prime Time: Randy Heffner at SOA/App Integration in Action

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Many new insights came out of ebizQ/TechTarget's latest SOA & Application Integration conference, held last week.

Randy Heffner, analyst with Forrester and a long-time SOA proponent, kicked off the event with a proposal for a new way of expanding the service-oriented philosophy across the enterprise -- through an emerging discipline called business architecture, which couples enterprise architecture with business drivers.

While it took a few years, business architecture as a discipline is emerging within enterprise architecture, Heffner says. "There's been a maturity around business architecture in the past two or three years." 

Underpinning business architecture is SOA, which serves as a business design concept, Heffner adds. Thus, it's time to look at how SOA shapes the rest of the business beyond IT. "SOA is important, but its just a part of what were doing," he says.  "It fits in with the rest of what we're doing because it's providing the core transactions and queries that we need for given business capabilities, like, for example, customer care -- get customer, get account, or get an invoice as our capabilities."

"We need more than just those services in a modern architecture," Heffner continues. "We need to do those things differently -- to get for the rest of our solution the same flexibility that we got with SOA." This means building and redesigning processes on top of the service orientation layer, he explains. For example, he says, "we need to design user roles.  With those roles, what do we do?  We throw 10 or 12 systems at them that they have to integrate in their heads. A much better design point is to say, well we know what the user role is, how do we integrate those user roles into one tool that's bult for the way the user role does its job?"

Heffner has the following advice for moving to a business architecture-driven approach:

It's about business capabilities, not technology: "Stop referring to applications by their primary technology," Heffner advises. "Don't take that technology focus. Maybe you should refer to it as 'the system that partly does customer care,' or 'partly provides for the customer care capability.' Don't refer to it as 'the event-driven app' or what have you."

Business metrics: "Be sure that every key member of your project understands the  business metrics.," Heffner says. "Seeing the business metrics at a lower level is  a key cultural shift, that gets people focused on the business rather than the technology."

Look at the big picture:  "Develop a high-level draft capabilities map to find project synergies," Heffner advises. For example, you may find processes that touch upon customer care. Also, he adds, find  "ways to connect the capabiltiy to other capabilities."

"These are the things that will allow you to take on the bigger picture around SOA and  business capability architecture is the right foundation for that bigger picture."

An online archive of the entire SOA & Application Integration in Action program will be available for viewing until November 5, 2010.


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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