From IBM Vice President in Charge of SOA and WebSphere Strategy

Sandy Carter

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SOA & WOA: Article

The New Language of Business: SOA & Web 2.0

The Top 10 Don'ts!

Understanding what not to do is just as important as understanding what to do. Understand the value of SOA. SOA is about flexible business processes. It's not just doing the same thing you've done before in a different way. Although you should absolutely approach SOA incrementally, the benefits you can achieve are dramatic. And unlike other IT approaches, SOA is not just about technology. SOA is really a mindset and a way of approaching business problems. It supports the flex-pon-sive* company by merging technology, business insight, and thought leadership to create an environment in which innovation can thrive.

How does your company get started? There's no single answer; it depends on your business priorities. Here you see that a focus on a real business problem, not SOA, is a critical part of success. If possible, start with revenue-generating applications in small bite-size hunks. Make sure that you focus on skills by building capabilities. And make sure you have that long-term plan in place that gets your business to the flex-pon-sive* state.

Taking an approach to SOA that is business-centric ensures that you are keeping your investments focused on areas that will mean the most for your bottom line. Whatever your approach, be sure to think through reuse and best practices. Take a portfolio-management perspective and decide what kind of assets you need to run your business. Then figure out where these assets come from. Newly created and reused services are the building blocks of SOA. Reuse gives users flexibility through reduced cycle time and elimination of duplicate processes.

For your first project, have a solid plan with governance at the heart. Governance is critical for success. Use the first project to establish credibility and to validate financial assumptions, to seed your CoE, and to establish architectural guidelines and organizational infrastructure to ensure reuse.

The Top 10 Don'ts!
A flex-pon-sive* company is one that responds with lightning speed and agility to rapidly changing business needs. I always learn from my mistakes - what to do different and what to do better. As such, I wanted to make sure that I included not only what your company should focus on, but what you should avoid with the top 10 don'ts. I got this idea watching David Letterman while poring over scores of customers that have already started to focus on flexibility. I want to cover the lessons that others have learned in hopes of sharing that knowledge.

The top 10 don'ts for your flex-pon-sive* journey are:

  1. Don't expect maximum business without SOA.
  2. Don't just do technology; it's a transformation of the way you do business.
  3. Don't throw everything out.
  4. Don't bite off big projects all at once.
  5. Don't forget to set expectations.
  6. Don't expect to do this without a culture modification through governance.
  7. Don't forget the right skills.
  8. Don't expect flexibility without open standards.
  9. Don't do this alone - leverage partners with experience.
  10. Don't do it without a strong plan because the first step is the most important.
Each of these "don'ts" is based on a wealth of SOA engagement experience and a true focus on business models and innovation for flexibility. I share that learning so that you can leverage the experience and leap ahead in your quest for competitiveness.

Don't Expect Maximum Business without SOA
They say that French is the language of love, and I say that SOA is the language of business flexibility. SOA is an approach that draws IT and business together and drives a discipline toward flexibility. Of course, we've heard this before, but it's truly different. One of IBM's top architects, Rob High, and one of IBM's top SOA consultants, Jason Weisser, summed it up this way:

"SOA is the link to the business. It is an approach to architecture that enables the flexibility required for innovation across the board. Why? We discussed in detail the role both XML and Web Services play in SOA. They are the glue like HTTP is the glue for the Internet. Web Services allow companies to have the necessary IT support so the business can be viewed as a set of services."

From a brief technology perspective, the technologies key to SOA, XML, and Web Services had better accommodate change. Said ever more strongly, SOA-based technologies enable you to build for change! For example, it's possible to add or reorder elements in an XML business object without breaking code. The same applies to WSDL, another standard prominent in SOA. From a technology viewpoint, older approaches, such as RPC or CORBA, don't allow this flexibility.

Additionally, Web Services offer the flexibility of having learned from the mistakes of previous methods (such as CORBA and RPC). The designers of Web Services learned that it needed the flexibility to support both asynchronous messaging and remote procedure calls. Before, support for one was there and the other was added later. Just as with a house, building additions is never as efficient or as flexible as designing it in the beginning.

In addition to this flexibility enablement, another enabler is language independence. XML renders more naturally into multiple languages, such as C, Java, COBOL, and so on.

Because SOA is based on these two critical elements, Web Services and XML, it's built for flexibility. It enables businesses to be on-demand and be able to respond to whatever the market throws at them.

Flexibility and cost savings continue to be crucial goals. Key to attaining these goals is an SOA strategy because it helps companies save money as they implement on-demand flexibility.

Don't Just Do Technology - It's a Transformation of the Way You Do Business
Okay, so I just told you not to look at SOA as a technology. IT is an approach. SOA requires business processes that are represented as services. However, the most successful companies don't consider this to be an IT-led journey. In fact, they view it as a partnership between business and IT.

For example, consider St. George Bank, Australia's fifth-largest bank. It's one of the top 15 public companies in Australia, employing more than 7,500 people. Its national operations span all aspects of the finance industry, including retail banking, institutional and business banking, and wealth management.

Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance to the bank and it can't afford to have IT challenges distracting it from its customers and business, which is why reusable services make so much sense. The cost of new product development and time-to-market are greatly reduced, enabling the bank to be flexible to business drivers while minimizing the cost to make the necessary changes.

At St. George Bank, the enterprise architecture team is co-located with the business. Greg Booker, head of group architecture, explains:

"I have two architects working on the same floor as the business leaders in commercial, and I have two architects working with the retail folks, so they're not locked away in an IT center, completely disconnected from the business. They are people that understand the business pressures or business issues from a day-to-day perspective, and the business is also able to reach out and touch those guys and talk to them.

"We're able to communicate to the business in terminology they appreciate like "fee to market," "reduced complexity," and "reduced costs," all of which it wants to hear about. It doesn't want to hear about the fact that it's a bunch of reusable components that are linked together with Web Services and all the rest of it.

"This level of engagement is critical," concludes Booker.

More Stories By Sandy Carter

Sandy Carter, vice president in charge of IBM's SOA and WebSphere strategy is a graduate of Duke University with a B.S. in Computer Science and Math and an M.B.A from Harvard University. Her professional associations include Member and Best Speaker Award, the Marketing Focus Advisory Council; Board Member of the Grace Hopper Industry Advisory Committee; and membership in Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Inner Circle.

She recently won an Award from AIT United Nations for helping developing countries, is an active member of the Women in Technology Group, and the Lead IBM Partnership Executive at Duke University.

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