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Discussions about SOA often center around Web services, or enabling business agility through reuse. An often overlooked component of an agile SOA is the information architecture. However, the information architecture is key to business agility and enabling SOA as well as many other corporate initiatives including CRM, creating a single view of the customer, creating enterprise portals, enterprise data inventory and management, real-time reporting and analysis, and creating management dashboards, updating a data warehouse, creating a virtual data warehouse, and updating common information across information sources.

When the right information is made available to the right person at the right time, it becomes an invaluable corporate asset. The information architecture defines the infrastructure, technology, and procedures that enable faster access to enterprise information for business managers and programmers alike. It enables the rapid delivery of executive dashboards, enterprise portals, composite applications, and application integration. The information architecture makes SOA more intelligent and more manageable. But if it does all that, why is it so often ignored? Part of the answer lies in history.

A Brief History of Information Architecture

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Systems Application Architecture (SAA) was IBM's strategy for distributed enterprise computing. SAA included a common user access, common programming interface, and common communications support. As part of this distributed computing architecture, IBM told customers to create enterprise data dictionaries to define data across systems. Many IBM customers invested millions of dollars over three-to-five years, and were never able to realize ROI from these efforts. A large part of the reason was that the technology was not yet available to enable the integration of these systems, so the effort amounted to binders on a shelf. Part of the reason was that the projects were too large companies were trying to boil the ocean, and the dictionaries could never be complete. Another part of the reason was that it was considered an IT infrastructure project, instead of a strategic business initiative. Without business backing and involvement, it was doomed to failure. Lack of enabling technology, taking on an impossibly large scope, and lack of business involvement were a triple whammy that doomed these projects to failure.


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