Process-Driven SOA

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Much of the current buzz about SOA has been focussed on the technology (inevitably Web Services) or the importance of reusability. However the real value of SOA is in the improvement to processes and ways of working that reflect the alignment of an organisation with its customers and suppliers.

The approach we favour is one that begins by aligning the business and technical understanding of the concepts of SOA, from both the business process and technical architecture perspective. The objective of this exercise is to create a common framework and taxonomy for the dialogue that needs to take place between the service recipients and service providers. There is an education for both parties in getting to this common understanding. Typically for the business users, it consists of:

  1. Assessment of Process Maturity. This review looks at the understanding and approach that the business users have to defining and managing the processes, procedures, transactions, workflows, etc, of HOW they do business through internal and external supply chains.

  2. Process Methodology Education. If the business users have a poor understanding of Process Methods and techniques, a short education workshop can be used to provide the knowledge of WHAT is involved and what can be gained by a more formal Process-driven approach.

  3. Business Value Assessment. If business users understand the concepts, they often need to see how it would apply to their business in terms of business benefits (revenue growth, increased business agility, reduced time to market, etc).

  4. Proof of Value. To show what specific benefits can be derived from this process-driven approach, a key process is chosen. A rapid assessment is made of the process to gather the information required to model what is currently happening (AS-IS). By running a set of what-if scenarios (TO-BE models) that address any perceived issues or bottlenecks, the users can identify specific task and process improvements that can be delivered. Because the simulation is based on actual data from the live process. Specific business benefits can be quantified from the new models by comparing current with potential KPIs.

  5. Proof of Concept. So far the approach has been a paper exercise. The next stage is to deliver a real example of benefits delivery using a representative business process.

  6. SOA Governance Model Definition. Key to the success of engaging business sponsors and achieving business improvement is creating and sustaining a specific SOA Governance structure.

  7. Process Improvement Change Plan. The potential impact on the organisation from a Process-driven SOA programme as likely to be as great as any other large business transformation programme. Key to facilitating this change is a formal Change Plan that has representation from the key business areas affected, as well as core support services, such as HR, Finance, Facilities Management and IT.

  8. SOA Centre of Excellence (SCoE). The SCoE plays a critical role in driving consistent cross-project planning, architecture, development, deployment, and operations. It both enables and promotes asset and skill reuse which is a key to realizing the benefits of Services Oriented Architectures and on-demand environments. It is staffed by a mixture of business users, analysts, architects and technologists.

Of course as a lowly (but very important) Business Analyst, you may not be able to influence the way in which your organisation adopts SOA. However, if you can ensure that the strategy includes both a Technology AND Business stream, not only will your life prove easier but so will your users and sponsors. This dual track approach to SOA is the only one that I have seen provide real benefit for the business.

Author: John Moe is Head of Business Consulting at Alphacourt, 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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COMMENTS

adrian posted on Thursday, August 6, 2009 5:59 PM
Hi John,

This is a great topic as so many folks focus on SOA without focusing on aligning the strategy with the business process.

- Adrian
JVincze posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 4:44 AM
Nice and clear framwork! Thanks for that.

Any chance you can provide a slightly larger copy of the Road Map chart? The font is too small to read.
-Joakim.
johnarmoe posted on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 12:20 AM
Joakim,
thanks for the comments. Please drop me an email at john@jmoeassociates.com and I will send you a copy of the slide.

John
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