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Business Case for SOA

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As we have reported previously, one of the main ingredients of successful SOA implementation is the ability to clearly articulate SOA implementation’s business benefits with concrete cost saving numbers. This opinion is reemphasized by Chris Haddad in his new post:

Four years ago, the business case for SOA didn’t matter. Enterprise organizations pursued SOA initiatives based on desire to achieve ‘competitive advantage’ and ‘agility’ without specifying clear metrics and success criteria... Today’s budgetary environment of doing less with less makes it ... important for service oriented architecture (SOA) champions to make their business cases for SOA investment compelling and to create and maintain momentum.

As an example, Chris describes the situation when he was asked to evaluate a SOA project, claiming to "implement a Business Process Management Suite (BPMS)... and prove the suite would make the organization more agile", but could not define the agility that was going to be achieved.

Constantly refactoring the IT environment into more composable and dynamic building blocks is extremely important. The latest techniques, technologies, and tools more readily facilitate decomposing monolithic applications and systems into more re-usable and efficient assets. However, few IT professionals quantify and track the business benefit derived by their company’s application and service-oriented improvement initiatives (such as SOA, SDLC, and BPM). Missing the correlation between investment and benefit is hindering continued pursuit of transformational activities.

This opinion is echoed by Mike Kavis

One of the most common mistakes IT people make is that they approach SOA purely from a technology perspective. They spent a great deal of time and effort on architecture, governance and vendor assessments, which is good, but they forget that SOA needs to solve real business problems. So they spend a huge amount of time and money building out the architecture -- only to find that when they are done, nobody in the business understands the benefits and is not interested in the technology.

His recommendation is:

Start with real business problems first. This is why BPM (business process management) is the "killer app" for SOA. By improving and automating business processes, BPM solves several business problems. It provides visibility into operational performance, enhances agility by allowing the business to change their processes dynamically without IT involvement, eliminates waste - thus reducing costs - and much more. Start by showing the business how SOA will solve real business problems first.

According to Chris Howard, vice president of application platform strategies and data management strategies at Burton Group:

As a community of technology leaders, we need to change the conversation around SOA in order to counter SOA fatigue. We must reposition the discussion of SOA into a clear business context and remove the emphasis on SOA for SOA’s sake.

SOA is as much (if not more) a business problem as it is a technology one and without clearly understanding and articulating a problem in business terms an implementation will typically fail, sometimes even before it actually starts due to lack of support from senior management, controlling both money and development resources.

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