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Big SOA, Little SOA: How You Approach SOA Matters

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Miko Matsumura, the vice president and deputy CTO at Software AG, thinks there are two versions of SOA -- little SOA, which is focused on IT and basically tactical in nature, and big SOA, which transcends IT and takes on a broader, strategic business impact. A recent study conducted by SAP with the University of St. Gallen seems to support Matsumura's theory. The report found there were two ways to view SOA's business case:

  1. SOA is an IT-centric initiative. SOA's technical infrastructure and organization drive the implementation.
  2. SOA is an enterprise initiative -- or, as the press release puts it, "an open architecture for adaptive business solutions," and the IT-centric method is only one part of that.

That's interesting. But ultimately, does the business case really make a difference to the end results? Unfortunately, the press release doesn't mention real stats -- nor do the numerous "articles" I found that basically reprinted the press release. It does offer an anecdotal account from Burda Digital Systems, which approached SOA as an enterprise-wide initiative. Burda's CEO, Gerhard Thomas, says SOA cut IT operation costs by 10-20 percent and IT project length by 20-30 percent. But the benefits extended beyond IT, according to Thomas:

"...the major benefit of SOA unfolds on the business-process side. We achieve increased process efficiency of between 10 to 30 percent, and also benefit from improved process quality due to consistent data and role-specific process design. This is only possible if you closely align your IT with the business and design services along process needs."

The press release is actually worth reading because in addition to the Burda example, it offers a cool account of how the University of Hagen and the City of Hagen used SOA to improve online constituent services across organizations.

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