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***Editor's Note: If you like this topic, join ebizQ for this month's special roundtable on BPM/SOA Trends for 2008.

Brands are reinforced every day with thousands of well-executed interactions with valued clients, whether it is the friendly gesture of the Ritz-Carlton concierge or the extra help offered by the Virgin Airlines front desk associate. Businesses know that every interaction with customers tests their brands. They need agile and flexible service organizations and systems that can help them deliver memorable experiences at every touch point-in the face of exploding customer interaction options and expectations.

Agility and flexibility are challenging attributes for any organization to inculcate, let alone large organizations. In this article, we discuss why and how a service-oriented architecture can make a big difference in an organization's ability to adapt, and propose an SOA-centric approach for designing and implementing customer interaction management systems -Service-Oriented Customer Interaction Architecture (SOCIA). We also explain why executives should ensure SOCIA compliance for any future investment in their customer interaction systems.

The Need for SOCIA
Technology helps businesses streamline processes and offer new services. Every five to seven years, enterprises invest in platform-based technology solutions that take years to implement. If the market dynamic, consumer technologies, or customer expectations changes rapidly-as they did in the last decade-businesses are stuck with expensive platforms that perfectly address the business need of a few years ago! Due to the monolithic nature of these platforms, there remains a costly gap between ever-changing market requirements and the inflexible technology (and process) capability within enterprises.

For example, some years ago, companies made significant investment in customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Soon, with new market forces, these businesses felt the need to "multi-source" their customer contact operations, making it nearly impossible to maintain a single repository for customer data. Their expensive CRM systems could deliver value only if all relevant customer data was stored within them. In a fragmented customer data environment (the new reality), most all-in-one CRM systems became square pegs in what was now a round hole. Frontline staff had to devise stop-gap solutions to compensate for the mismatch between the monolithic CRM platform and distributed service processes and data sources.


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