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Changing a truck’s direction is easier than making a train go where the tracks don’t, and Gartner Vice President and research fellow Roy Schulte thinks that’s a fitting metaphor for developing truly agile enterprises, which can react more quickly to changes in business conditions than the old-fashioned kind of organization.



“If you want the train to move over one foot, you have to do an immense amount of work tearing up and re-laying tracks,” Schulte said in the expoQ webinar Creating The New Enterprise Agility: Service-Oriented and Event-Driven, part of the Creating New Enterprise Agility series, sponsored by Sybase. On the other hand, all you need to do to turn the more agile truck is move the steering wheel.

“If you find you’re not selling many SUVs and you want to transfer the assembly line over to some other kind of car, you’d like to be able to (easily) reconfigure that business process,” Schulte said. That takes agility.

And agility’s underlying enabler and accelerator, Schulte proclaimed, is integration.

He explained that agility generally involves event-driven business practices, facilitated by service-oriented architectures. And Schulte noted that event-driven, service-oriented architectures integrate three kinds of data: reference data, such as the number of trucks in a fleet; state data, such as the number of trucks under repair; and event data, such as a delivery being completed.

“Traditional business strategies are not event driven. Many companies, for instance, build to stock. On the other hand, an event-driven approach sees products being built to order,” he pointed out. This allows customization and reduces inventory-carrying costs.

Slowly, Schulte observed, SOAs are growing from an occasional best-practice to more of a mainstream structure, due in part to the emergence of Web services.

But he noted that the lack of clear standards is restraining the universal interoperability of Web services. In the meantime, “Most Web services calls will occur between software made by the same vendor.”

Event-driven business practices need event-driven information systems, and so a growing number of vendors are offering products to help build those systems, products such as Business Process Management software, integration brokers, adapters, and transformation engines.

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