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Results of a SOA Case Study competition show main ingredients for SOA success

by Boris Lublinsky on Oct 06, 2008 |

SOA Consortium and CIO Magazine have just announced the winners of a SOA case study competition.. Synovus Financial was the overall winner in this competition, with several companies receiving special recognition in several categories - Penn National Insurance in insurance, Con-way, Inc. in transportation, US Department of Defense, AT&L in government, SunGard Financial Systems in technology and Canada Health Infoway in healthcare.

All of the winners’ case studies are described in terms of company’s background, business scenarios, return on investment (ROI), project organization and lessons learned. Despite the fact that companies’ backgrounds and business scenarios are very different, many commonalities (consistent with the previous SOA reports by InfoQ) can be observed in return on investment (ROI), project organization and lessons learned.

For all case study winners, ROI centered on business benefits with concrete cost saving numbers:

  • Synovus Financial. By leveraging its existing SOA infrastructure, hosting and many of its existing services, IT was able to save close to a million dollars in project implementation costs. The solution was rolled out to all 37 financial institutions within Synovus at no additional project cost.
  • Penn National Insurance. Dramatically increased pricing precision by moving from a simplistic 3-tier pricing system to a 25 tier one, thus significantly improving pricing segmentation. They achieved a 65% increase in new business quotes over the same time period for the previous year. Increased policy processing efficiency with projected cost savings of $1.3 million. Overall, the company expects to achieve tangible annual cost savings of $3.3 million from their SOA implementation.
  • Con-way, Inc. By automating the business process and triggering it through an event, Con-way has saved up to 500 man-hours daily. Operations, Sales and Finance personnel also have real-time decision support by removing the latency in the flow of mission critical data. Millions of business events are being published and processed in an event-driven manner.
  • US Department of Defense, AT&L. The SOA infrastructure and related governance processes enabled authoritative information supporting acquisition decision making on $103B in total program value to be pulled from authoritative sources, as needed.
  • SunGard Financial Systems. Higher volume of solutions delivered, including greater exposure to previously hidden assets. Greater efficiencies of delivering solutions. Better integration with customers’ SOA environment, resulting in higher business satisfaction.
  • Canada Health Infoway. An independent study of the cost benefits of the Interoperable Electronic Health Record (iEHR) was done for Infoway by Booz Allen Hamilton. They estimated that the total cost of IT enabling the healthcare system to be $9.9B. The annual benefits (savings or cost avoidance in healthcare services) are estimated at $6.1B and to be $82.4B over 20 years.

The ability to clearly articulate business benefits of SOA implementations and put real numbers behind them is what made these companies winners in the use case competition and will allow them to get management support for further SOA advancements.

When it comes to project organization, there are again striking commonalities between the winners:

  • Synovus Financial. Because the project is so pioneering, the vendors, Synovus, business analysts and architects have been working closely to ensure all requirements are analyzed for larger domain adoption. In addition, Synovus’ Architecture and Development team has a governed Configuration Control Board (CCB) that is used for tactical and strategic SOA governance. This governance body insured that SOA was carefully integrated into the project’s fabric to help decide the proper technologies.
  • Penn National Insurance. Business and IT project team members collaborated daily on service design to ensure reusability and business alignment of shared services. In addition company has created a Data Stewardship Council (DSC), comprised of decision makers from the Underwriting, Claims, Marketing, Finance, Actuarial, and IT Departments and responsible for corporate data governance. The DSC’s mission is to ensure service interoperability based on semantic data definition.
  • Con-way, Inc. As part of Con-way Freight’s project governance, business cases were developed with business sponsors before any major project was undertaken. During the execution of a project, there were usually several business users involved in various parts of the software development lifecycle including use case analysis, user interface design and user acceptance. As agile software development practices are being adopted, business users will become even more closely integrated with the emergence of new applications and functionality.
  • US Department of Defense, AT&L. . The technical team was made up of technical resources from three sources: data providers (from Army, Air Force, Navy, and the Defense Acquisition Management Information Retrieval program office), the hosting partner (BTA) and software technologists. This ensured that all interested parties had an active participation in the project.
  • SunGard Financial Systems. The company has created the SOA Center of Excellence (COE), including a quality assurance team and a certification and performance lab. COE also provide centralized management of federated development communities across the global organization and the registration of assets and project management cataloging the decomposition of key products into agile components. Common architects represent each of the business segments and they review and vote on creation of business services. Additional collaboration was fostered by community calls and active wikis to leverage each other’s work in real time. Finally, a customer advisory board, whose membership was composed of enterprise architects and technology officers from top tier banking, investment services, energy and insurance organizations helped to ensure that the project remained on track.
  • Canada Health Infoway. The company has build a core team made up of staff architects and standards experts from Infoway’s Solution Architecture Group, project managers, change management specialists and knowledge management specialists. This team was supplemented by field experts ranging from clinical experts (e.g. physicians, nurses, pharmacists) to technical experts in various areas (e.g. HL7, privacy and security).

These examples show, once again, that only close business/IT cooperation coupled with a top down SOA approach are the ones that ensure SOA success.

Finally, when it comes to lessons learned from SOA implementations, the winners of the case studies expressed similar views:

  • Synovus Financial. SOA is architecture and philosophy not a technology. It can provide value only when coupled with good governance. As long as the overall architecture is correct, some of the implementation errors can be corrected along the way.
  • Penn National Insurance. The absolute requirement for SOA success is to spend up-front time, gaining business support and discussing how SOA implementation will impact functioning of the business. Additionally disciplined architectural governance and communication processes are essential to the success of a SOA project.
  • Con-way, Inc. The critical success factor for the project was getting senior executive sponsorship from the outset. The other success factor was holistic approach to the SOA program, including upfront modeling and partitioning business functionality into services whether there was anticipated reuse or not.
  • Con-way, Inc.Success of the implementation was driven by a proper definition of semantic data. That was achieved through creation of a data governance body which was responsible for data definitions and identification of authoritative sources for the data.
  • SunGard Financial Systems. The critical success factor was keeping SOA project on track. That included keeping the objectives and scope at each stage clear, tracked, measured and reported; ensuring the teams were organized, with clear roles and responsibilities defined; creation of clear milestones, project plans, risks, issues, resource allocation, and progress reporting. The interdependency between SOA and BPM has also become very clear - BPM enables the identification and prioritization of services that should be built; the right level of services is required to achieve the benefits of BPM.
  • Canada Health Infoway. Very precise and detailed specifications were required for the critical services that needed to be defined and exposed in a common way across the country. It was also highly advantageous to use messaging standards such as HL7 messaging and controlled medical vocabularies for service definition.

The results of the SOA competition confirm that, if done right, a SOA implementation can deliver significant measurable benefits. It also shows that "done right" includes all of the faucets of implementation, including getting executive "buy-in", starting from the business model, "architecture- first" approach, proper SOA decomposition and appropriate governance.

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