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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
Starting an SOA Initiative or Continuing the Journey?
It’s all in the approach

Creating Company-Wide Consensus
Given the many SOA success stories, along with some very public lessons learned, let's take a closer look at the "how" when it comes to SOA deployment.

At the onset of the project, it's non-negotiable that your cross-company team build consensus on the strategy and goals to ensure its success. Before you begin the actual IT construction of the project, here are 10 questions to present to the team to structure the conversation:

  1. What are our three primary goals for the SOA initiative?
  2. Who will be using the SOA environment?
  3. Are there plans to extend the processes, services, or applications beyond the company walls to include customers and partners? If so, are we building a flexible and extensible infrastructure?
  4. Which team and/or department will be the launching pad for the SOA initiative?
  5. Who are the executive sponsors?
  6. How will we benchmark and showcase our success?
  7. Inventory: what do we currently have and what do we need in terms of technology and skills?
  8. How will the SOA project innovate new business processes?
  9. How will the strategic initiative contribute to the bottom line from a business and IT perspective?
  10. Are we taking advantage of the latest technologies to foster collaboration and innovation while protecting our existing IT investments?

Once you've established an understanding of the strategy and direction, you can move forward on the actual approach to rolling it out to the organization. But just where do you start?

Three Proven Approaches to SOA: People, Processes and Information
The three most popular and proven approaches to starting an SOA project are people, processes, and information. Of course, respective of the nuances and business requirements within every company, organizations will need to determine their own appropriate starting point to SOA.

However, based on data collected from thousands of successful deployments around the globe, the three approaches cited above are consistently viewed as the fastest, most effective routes to SOA.

A people-centric approach begins with fostering collaboration among employees, customers, and partners. Many people view this entry point from the glass and take into account the various ways that each person's role in the organization impacts another's. Based on this approach, the SOA project's starting point prioritizes the end-user's view and role.

Essentially, the people-centric approach is focused on boosting employee productivity, overall business efficiency and enabling various constituents in the organization to easily and quickly make critical business decisions for competitive advantage.  After all, people, not technology, drive business decisions and the ability to make the right decision should be based on the collective thoughts of informed individuals with access to real-time data that is unleashed from its silos through an SOA infrastructure.

The process-centric approach to SOA focuses on the ways that your company runs its business. Each organization has established processes for executing tasks, from simple supply orders and expense report approvals to more complex activities such as managing and monitoring the entire supply chain or connecting a global team to create and design a new automobile.

All of these processes have steps that intersect nearly every part of the organization and require access to various applications and databases that may be strewn throughout the company. By outlining these business processes, companies can uncover redundancies and identify best practices that can be rolled out as services within the new architecture.

The process-centric approach to SOA enables users to streamline their business processes and seamlessly perform their roles. All of this is achieved without being hindered by application silos or other roadblocks on the way to improving productivity, accelerating speed-to-market and quickly responding to new business challenges.

The information-centric approach to SOA looks at information as a service that may be made available to your entire organization as well as customers and partners.

Using information as an entry point to SOA provides a powerful advantage in terms of consolidating erroneous or redundant data, ensuring consistency of information, and gaining a better understanding of the various types of information that are currently running your business, such as operational, unstructured, and transactional. In addition, you will be able to see how the information flows throughout the company and the way that it intersects with employee roles.

When a company employs the information-centric approach to SOA, it is assured of more consistent definitions and governance of critical business data. Further, as with all approaches to SOA, reuse of services saves both time and money while limiting exposure to human data errors.

The business drivers for your SOA will most likely determine your starting point. As companies progress on their SOA path, they eventually realize that they will need to mix and match their approaches as part of a larger strategy.

For example, a consumer e-retailer may begin with a people-centric approach and realize great success with its initial SOA project. As the architecture expands to include warehouse inventory, they may initiate their next project using an information-centric approach.

Regardless of the selected entry point, the most successful SOA deployments are those that began with one of the three recommended approaches: people, process or information.

While executive support is important, the success of your SOA will hinge, in large part, on the way that you execute your strategy. Selecting the entry point that is most closely aligned with the business goals is a critical first step because it will allow you to more quickly deliver tangible results that will not only inspire the team, it will also help illustrate to the entire organization that SOA is not just another "TLA" trend.

About Kadeer Beg
Kadeer Beg is the CTO of Prolifics, an end-to-end systems integrator based in New York, NY. With over 15 years of experience in delivering and architecting large-scale systems across multiple platforms, Kadeer has provided consulting to Fortune 500 clients and worked in senior management for Societe Generale, New Era of Networks, Sapient, Bell Canada, Cendant, and IBM.

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