Integration has always been the keyword in the development of the service-oriented architecture. Integration of data and aplications will tear down the silos surrounding individual business units and free workers to put information resources to new uses.
Now, it seems that the concept is going even further, with some SOA proponents talking about integration of network services -- namely voice, video and data -- through the use of master data management (MDM) and other tools. This would be a major shift in the thinking behind SOA in that it turns the technology away from the inward focus on improving internal business processes toward more customer-facing applications.
Traditional application integration is still front and center for most enterprises, however, if only as a means to produce a more modular, flexible IT environment. One of the biggest challenges to implementation remains justifying the investments in terms of cost savings or improvements in efficiency, which can be hard to quantify.
But no level of SOA investment, regardless of whether it's aimed internally or externally, will improve your quality of service (QoS). No matter how you re-architect your system, you are still relying on a system that can never be completely controlled. The best approach, then, is to be fully transparent with the risks and the shortcomings of all new systems.
That, of course, leads us to the question of why the business community, in particular, should care about SOA. This question arises because so much of the focus is paid to the technology, rather than the business processes it is designed to enhance. In a nutshell, once an SOA environment has replaced all the disparate business applications like CRM and ERP with one overarching "SOA application," the benefits to business productivity and profitability become too great to ignore.