Business Oriented Architecture and SOA

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I know many of you are still trying to get to grips with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), so apologies in advance for the potential mental exertion and confusion of introducing Business Oriented Architecture (BOA).

First let me say that there is no general agreement on what BOA is among the white bearded (and sandaled) enterprise architects that pronounce on these issues.  So I am going to give a proper business-oriented BOA definition that should provide the Modern Analyst with food for thought.

As those who took SOA 101 a while back (see previous articles), IT has devised a way of breaking down applications into services that do a specific task and integrate them into business processes by providing some IT functionality at the appropriate business step.  Although SOA had lofty ambitions of providing business services as part of their architecture, SOA has remained very much an IT concept, ignored and unloved by the business.

There were two main reasons for this.  The language used to describe SOA was very IT-centric, and become very jargon-filled and over-complicated – a classic turn-off for business.  Secondly, SOA still did not address real business problems; it only provided yet another attempt to re-arrange the deckchairs on the S.S IT Department

My take on BOA aims to address both of these issues and become of direct value to senior executives.  In the first diagram below, we see a classic hierarchical organisation based on historical divisions managing their own customers with their own service teams, with little shared service and significant complexity if, say, a new credit process needs to implemented across the company.  Although many organisations have moved ahead on some shared services initiatives, this structure is still dominant.

Contrast this with the organisation below that is organised around the key customer process(es) that define their business through the value chain that the organisation provides to the customer.  Clients are now looking for a true customer-focused experience from businesses that streamline and enhance their customer journey.

What some of the more forward thinking companies are doing is re-organising their business functions into true business services aligned with the customer journey.  What we have now is a Business Oriented Architecture that defines the organisation in terms of the value-add and integrates the business services into the customer-centric process.

I can guarantee that if you show the BOA diagram to a business executive they will take more interest than any number of SOA pictures.  They might not like the implications on roles & responsibilities, but they will definitely understand how it will benefit the company.  From an analyst perspective, defining the requirements in a BOA context will make the outcome much richer and meaningful for executives. 

I would be interested to know if anyone believes that a BOA exists in their organisation, and if so how effective it is.  The companies I know who are moving down this path are making the business changes ahead of formalising the architecture.

Author: John Moe is Head of Business Integration at Tori Global, and writes and presents widely on SOA and BPM. With over 25 years experience delivering application development and business transformation programmes, John has made most of the mistakes you will ever make and is keen to pass on this knowledge to help you avoid them yourself. In return he just expects undying gratitude and free drinks wherever he goes.



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