“Today, people are selecting the project they dive into based on their history,” IBM’s Carter says. “If I’m an ERP shop, I’ll start from an ERP perspective and move out. If I’m a datacentric shop, I’ll start from my data view and move out. Only 20 percent are re-architecting from SOA; the other 80 percent are starting with their heritage.” What enterprises should be doing, Carter argues, is looking at their processes across the board, and identifying the highest impact opportunities -- such as improving customer satisfaction, enabling better collaboration, or more quickly getting new products to market. “If you try to start with ESB [enterprise service bus], we’ll push you to look at your process,” Carter says.
“The process you select to start with SOA on is crucial.”
As an example of how small process shortcomings can have huge business impacts, she cites a Columbian coffee company that had 17 different ways to label a single coffee bean. “Because they had different ways to qualify it around the world, they couldn’t tell if they were in or out of stock -- it was there, but just designated a different way. It seemed like a simple little thing, but it was costing the company a lot of money.”
In IBM’s component business modeling framework, consultants typically pull together diverse business stakeholders for a rigorous, full-blown mapping exercise. A session with a retail industry client, for example, might include representatives from IT, business administration (HR, corporate strategy, financial planning, and compliance), distribution and warehousing (for logistics expertise), product merchandising, and marketing.
“This is all about governance,” Carter says. “At the very highest level of business, most companies are doing it as a business transformation. You need alignment of business and IT, and a set decision-making process. And you need rules for compliance -- everyone will use this particular service.”
Just don’t expect any magic formulas that can be applied across the board, Forrester’s Heffner says. “It’s less important to figure out which process modeling method you’re using, and more important to ensure that you’re getting a rich dialogue between the business and IT,” he says.
“Success now is characterized by personality,” Heffner argues -- the involvement of self-starters who combine business and IT savvy, create opportunities by making connections, build relationships around a process area, and just make things happen.
“Forget about best practices,” Heffner says. “Take bits from here and there ... just enough process modeling, just enough technology. This is not the kind of thing we’ve had in the industry long enough for it to be programmatized in a way that leads to good outcomes.”
Focus too rigidly on either pure process modeling or services architecture, Heffner warns, and you could end up in a methodology boneyard. “Three years ago, somebody drew some maps, and they’re not really part of any solution delivery process [today]. At this point, you should be establishing opportunities, designing your business as you’re designing your services, understanding how your business will function in the digital world,” he says. “You don’t want to freeze either of these design points … success is characterized by the dynamics of the process.”
Meeting in the middle
The key to a successful process/services mashup is how you execute it, according to analysts -- from methods for resolving conflicts, to grounding your assumptions in specifics, to leaving room for the business-use cases and SOA to evolve over time.