Thursday, July 26, 2007

Strategic Thinking Pays off!

On reading a recent story on 'Relationship based pricing' in Financial Services. This concept basically talks about offering special prices based on the relationship that a customer has with a Bank across various business units like Insurance, credit card, etc. Traditionally, the prices/discounts are extended to the client only based on a specific product relationship. For example, a Bank will not typically offer special prices when the customer makes a product purchase across a line-of-business. This is due to the hard fact that the Bank does not have 360 degree view of the customer. Hard hitting indeed!.

Every bank is trying to get this full view of the customer. There are lots of point-to-point integrations are implemented in a Bank's IT system to realize this sceanario. The point is that it exists. But, it is also complex and erroneous. So, the banks have so far not realized the complete potential of having 360 degree of customers. New products/services on top of a 360 degree view have always remained as dreams.

Now, I see this scenario as the real business case for having an SOA based infrastructure and integration. Had the Banks had an agile infrastructure today, they would have been in a position to offer new services like Relationship based pricing. Now, since the fact that their infrastructure is not agile, its going to increase their time-to-market. And thats where the competitor wins!.

So, the future lies with the people who are really acting TODAY.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SOA is far far away

Recently I saw the movie Shrek-3 and the kingdom which Shrek is supposed to rule is call 'Far Far Away'.

Sounds funny!.

Here, I intend to draw parallel with this syllable with SOA.

In my company, recently, one of my colleagues gave a presentation on 'SOA - A Myth or Reality' and concluded it is a reality. I was telling myself that isnt it already a reality and why are re-opening the debate?

But, I feel the question is indeed valid, after reading a recent AMR research on SOA/BPM. AMR has clearly articulated that the toolset for creating and managing BPM and SOA is really not in a very matured stage, for adaption to be quicker.

Each vendor has its own architecture, style and suite of tools to model the business processes and architect the services. Are these tools from different vendors interoperable?. Absolutely no!. So, if the objective of SOA is all about integration and standardization, then you are expected to follow un-integrated set of tools and methods.

I was thinking for an ERP shop, its wise to venture into SOA with ERP supplied SOA products...the AMR report invalidates the very same assumption...

Some of the interesting points...

1. The SOA/BPM tools market is yet to consolidate and standardize.
2. Vendors approach in offering standardized services catalog differs. IBM provides a seperate service fabric for each of the industries, and SAP is still in nascent stage by growing the service repository by working with partners.
3. For a ERP customer, it is not necessary to always go with the same ERP vendor for venturing into SOA. they can still look at other mature EAI vendors like WebMethods/IBM to create the SOA fabric on top of the ERP.

Applying SOA to business, not IT

SOA is getting enough attention these vendors and clients...

Recently one of my ex-colleagues, a fellow architect, surprised me by throwing the idea of applying SOA to a real business context and not IT systems. Sounds strange!?. Not really!

SOA principles are mainly applied to IT systems to make it more structured and be agile.

How about applying the same principles to the real business?. The business organization, business processes and services offered by the business...

My colleague was quoting the example of service-orienting the IT services organization. By and large, all IT services are grown to an extent where their sheer portfolio of services (e.g. application development and maintenance, infrastructure management) themselves have become an independent organization within the bigger organization. Each Line-Of-Business within the IT services organization has become siloed, powerful, bureaucratic and rigid. Introducing any change in the respective LOB or composing/creating a new service by mixing/matching with another LOB has become a nightmare!. Its hard to believe!. But its the truth...Its increasingly becoming difficult to orchestrate services within the one and the same organization though they all belong to the same parent. But, the irony is, all such IT services/consulting organization do enough cross-selling and up-selling and claim to be the one stop shop for all services.

So, How do we solve the problem?...We can look at what SAP consulting does...It has defined productized services for several of their service offerings by implementing standardized tools, methodologies, and frameworks and trainings for its own consultants across the globe. So, when a new business comes from the client, SAP consulting nicely distributes the work across the globe and orchestrates and gets it done. All becomes possible because its services/offerings are industrialised.

I can visualize a 'Enterprise-level Global Service Bus' that is running within such an organization, where each LOB is seamlessly integrated and presents their services...It feels good to imagine such a nice-and-beautiful system. But its indeed looks feasible!.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Be structured to support Ad-Hoc

What an irony?

Whether we want our systems to be agile, or support mashups or composition of services or Reporting, our systems need to be structured and implement standards.