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Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA): Strategy, Methodology, and Technology

Monday, July 21, 2008   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jim Lawler
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by James P. Lawler, D.P.S., Associate Professor of Information Systems, Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Pace University, New York City

Since 2003 my colleagues at Pace University and I have been analyzing the continued adoption of evolving technologies in firms in industry. One of the technologies being aggressively applied by industry is service-oriented architecture (SOA), a framework for enabling flexibility, efficiency and agility in business processes, so that firms can gain a competitive edge. SOA is considered by consultants and pundits as a technology as consequential to industry as the Internet. Because of the hype, my colleague in industry, H. Howell-Barber, and I decided to do a book on how to really do SOA. This is our first book!

In our book we define a practical program management methodology that can be complimentary to project management methodologies already existing in firms. The methodology concentrates on frequent delivery of business benefits and releases of business features or services of SOA on an incremental and iterative project path. It consists of frequent interaction of technology employees and business employees in the migration of business processes to SOA. It includes diversely skilled business and technology employees on smaller project teams. This methodology is a hybrid approach that is top-down in design from business management models and bottom-up in design from operational platform technologies.

The methodology is described in frameworks of best practices for corporate, business and technology employees engaged on projects of SOA. The frameworks consist of governance, communications, product realization, project management, architecture, data management, service management, human resource management, and post implementation. These frameworks are coupled or related tasks for managing a program or a project of SOA.

The bulk of the book is focused on in-depth case studies of 15 Fortune 10 ? 1000 firms in industry deploying SOA, based on available information on each of the firms in practitioner literature and on interaction with managers in a number of the firms. Firms covered the automobile (1 firm), banking (3), energy (1), health (1), insurance (2), manufacturing (1), technology (2), telecommunications (2), training (1), and travel and leisure (1) industries. These firms are headquartered in the United States.

We analyzed projects on SOA in each of the firms with each of the frameworks of our methodology. To the frameworks were applied an evaluation by us of each of the projects perceived by us to be effectively enabled post facto by the program management methodology. The evaluation highlighted key business, procedural, and technical factors on the projects that were perceived by us as contributing most effectively to an SOA strategy.

We discovered the following from the studies:

- Close collaboration of technology employees with business employees on business requirements can contribute to fast deployment of SOA;

- Enterprise governance of SOA based on strategic planning can ensure effective and economical reusability of business services in an SOA;

- Evolution of functionality on incremental projects contributing immediate benefits, in contrast to investment on 'big bang' projects contributing elusively later benefits, can be a prudent SOA strategy;

- Focusing on service standards at the beginning of a project on SOA can help in creating a solid foundation of SOA strategy; and

- Focusing on service orientation training of internal technology and business employees from the beginning of a project, and continuous technology training during the projects, is crucial for deployment of an SOA strategy.

Importantly, we discovered conclusively that firms that lead projects of SOA with procedural and business requirements have more success with SOA than those that lead projects with technical functionality, which confirmed findings of other studies that I have published with Seidenberg colleagues in conference proceedings and journal publications since 2003.

Finally, we learned that SOA is a feasibly strong proposition for firms in industry. Firms that hesitate in investing adequately in an SOA program may be hindered by not having competitively flexible and agile processes that might furnish an improved proposition of service to their customers. Managers might evaluate business processes in their firms for future competitive edge in their proposition and focus investment in SOA technology towards those processes.

The findings and implications convey the clear proposition that the excitement and hype of this technology must be balanced with the prudence of a business strategy.

In summary, we believe that the findings of this book benefit business executives, business managers, and technology program and project managers, who are beginning to apply service-oriented architecture as a business strategy in their firms. We feel that the book will also benefit managers and analysts who are already learning more about business process management, enterprise architecture, and information systems in industry. Lastly, we hope instructors will consider the book as a guide in educating information systems students on SOA, since such students are the future technologists of our century.

Note: Dr. Lawler continues to publish research studies on service-oriented technology (SOA) at academic conferences in the United States, Europe and Middle East and is the recipient of several Best Paper of Conference studies based on methodological principles in his new book.

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