I sat in on a presentation this morning focused on the changing role of Enterprise architecture embracing a more flexible, ecosystem of services providers. EA has been primarily focused on systems of record, from my perspective. It was a good discussion of the issues from a technologist’s point of view: data governance, making solutions more service oriented…
An interesting thought came to mind though: What is the change in formal leadership’s behavior and their consumption of the architectural work products? Does this change in any consistent or well defined way?
Since the governance of all these more flexible relationships will be a core capability of the IT leadership, the EA work products will need to shift, enabling the formal leadership to make better business decisions more quickly. Some of the elements will not be in the enterprise and yet those may be the same ones the leadership needs the greatest insight for decision making. It is not just the IT systems that need to change to enable flexibility, the architectural work products, processes, and leadership behavior need to change too.
It will likely be necessary to shift from a CMDB and other rigid approaches that were focused on governing systems of record (even that relatively few organizations have been able to do well) to an even more complex approach that provides oversight of dynamic systems of engagement. The fact that it more dynamic may allow for zealots to give up striving for perfection and instead focus on something that is good enough to address today’s needs – since tomorrow’s needs may be very different.
For a long time I’ve been saying that modeling and simulation will be the “killer application” of cloud computing – All the way back to when we used to talk about the “agile enterprise”. I was sent an article about how simulation will be change the whole approach to enterprise architecture, IT management and the computing environment itself, titled: Escaping Legacy IT systems.
The article describes how “Information technology (IT) managers are thus reluctant to make changes that could have unforeseen consequences for network stability; as a result, they often end up saddled with obsolete software and inefficient network designs.” and how large-scale simulators can be used for global data infrastructure optimization.
By allowing organizations to adjust their environment via models and then simulation performance, the risks to the business can be significantly reduced. We’ll see much more of this type of approach within IT and throughout the businesses of the future enabled by IT’s world of abundance. The change to models and simulation will also affect the workforce. I usually describe this kind of change as a change in the nature of change itself.
As an example to drive home the shift in skills required, I’ll use the example of you being a realtor or builder and I am a home buyer. First you’d want to know the information related to the first three laws of real estate: location, location, location. Then we might talk about the floor plan or energy efficiency…
But wait – I want something that is more flexible. I’m really talking about a motor coach not a traditional home. Location is not your problem it is my problem, I’ll drive it to where I want to live. The floor plan is flexible. I can push out the walls to have the kind of living environment I need and reconfigure it to drive down the road.
I need mechanical engineering skills that can understand movement and the stress placed on the structure much more than static structural or civil engineering skills. It is a house built for continuous change.
These are exactly the kinds of issues that businesses are facing as they move to a more instant-on approach.
In her recent blog, Anne Thomas Manes announced "SOA Is Dead-Long Live Services". She alleges that SOA has been killed by the economic depression because enterprises cannot afford major investments in IT transformation. She envisions web-based information services to be the survivors. The disillusionment with SOA is a result of misunderstanding perpetrated by software vendors anxious to leverage an industry trend for quick sales. Those who believe SOA is dead will be the real casualties.
SOA is a business architecture enabled by technology-it is not simply an application of web services technology. The OASIS SOA Reference Model is based on access to business capabilities across organizational boundaries. It is about relationships between organizations. It also is the basis for synergy between business and IT. The Internet and related technologies enable easy access to such capabilities independent of the particular technology used to implement the operation of the service.
According to a related article, "SOA Gets an Obituary" in Yahoo.Tech:
Interviewed Monday afternoon, Manes said successful SOA implementations have resulted from major IT transformation efforts rather than just slapping a bunch of interfaces on applications. ‘Those companies have seen spectacular results from these efforts, but in those circumstances, SOA was part of something much bigger,' Manes said.
Upon closer examination, I am sure the major transformations referenced above were really business transformations supported by technology. The real benefits of SOA come from improvements in the operation and agility of the business.
Technically, the key here is to establish a standard infrastructure in which services can be easily accessed and shared, and to establish standard message formats and data definitions by which service providers and service consumers can interact. IT should focus on enabling business by supporting the implementation and integration of business services.
From a business perspective, the key is to identify sharable capabilities and provide well-defined interfaces by which they can be shared and used in multiple business contexts. So, for example, the same billing operation (computer application and associated business activities) can be used by multiple lines of business. However, the transformation goes beyond just putting a façade on an old billing system, because the old billing system is most likely designed for a particular line of business-its functionality may need to be generalized. Furthermore, the billing operation no longer belongs to one of the lines of business; it belongs to the enterprise. Business savings will result from economies of scale in the billing operation, not just the elimination of redundant billing applications.
The consolidation of key capabilities is where a transformation to SOA starts. Such solutions as the shared billing system are the low-hanging fruit. Outsourcing of commodity services can provide other low-investment, high-ROI opportunities. You don't need to rush out, buy a lot of software and transform your IT infrastructure.
In the long term, SOA provides not only economies of scale, but agility. Our SOA Maturity Model (EDS an HP Company) defines a progression toward agility. It addresses both technical and business changes that must occur over a long journey. At the end of the journey, the agile enterprise embraces SOA so that sharable capabilities are made accessible as services. These capabilities include not only capabilities for delivery of customer products and services, but also capabilities that support operation of the enterprise such as accounting and human resource management services.
These capabilities (the shared business units) become building blocks for future business endeavors. Instead of creating a new organizational silo to address a new line of business, existing capabilities are incorporated into a new value chain, and only missing capabilities must be developed and integrated. The enterprise can adapt to challenges and opportunities much more quickly. Improvements to existing capabilities will have less pervasive effects because the affected functionality is more likely consolidated in fewer and smaller organizational units.
Far from being wiped out by the bad economy, SOA will enable smart enterprises to achieve economies of scale in the short term and agility in the long term. The SOA Maturity Model provides guidance for short-term ROI and continued improvement as the enterprise progresses to higher levels of maturity and agility. Those who abandon SOA will become competitively disadvantaged.
For more on SOA for business, the agile enterprise, and the SOA Maturity Model, see my book, Building the Agile Enterprise with SOA, BPM and MBM.