Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to service orientated architecture (SOA) adoption but globalization pressures will force these organizations to act, according to Saul Cunningham, SOA principle at Oracle Australia/New Zealand.
He said the Aussie ‘wait-and-see’ adage won’t cut it if IT shops want to keep pace with competitors.
“They [local organizations] will be at a significant disadvantage if they hold out for too long,” Cunningham said.
“IT systems must be agile to meet changing business conditions. SOA equals faster and cheaper deployment of new IT services to the business.
“SOA-based services are easily reused and can be rapidly assembled into new, composite applications which result in reduced IT costs and a lowered maintenance budget.
“The ability to re-use IT services reduces the internal complexity of an IT environment. Businesses also reap the rewards of higher quality IT services through multiple testing cycles from different service customers, lower integration costs, and reduced risk.”
Cunningham warned that executive buy-in for SOA deployment is crucial.
While SOA helps with new application development, integration and legacy modernization, he said the business case is far easier to make if it is undertaken for reasons of growth, value creation and cost control.
“The business understands the idea of improving shareholder value which takes the form of revenue growth and operating cost reduction delivered by business responsiveness, consolidation and modernization. It allows IT to more effectively sweat fixed assets,” Cunningham said.
“SOA allows the business to easily and inexpensively assemble and disassemble new applications that exist across operating platforms and proprietary applications.
“The underlying framework will change the current role of IT by letting business managers create the IT functionality they need to support business initiatives.”
Cunningham said organizations don’t have to be held hostage by isolated systems and a lack of interoperability.
He referred to the high cost of maintaining legacy applications, which can dominate the IT budget. Replacing a mainframe, he said, can cost millions of dollars.
With SOA there is no need to rip and replace as all services as equal regardless of what technology or generation they are from.
“SOA can reuse 40 year-old mainframe systems that still provide useful services and combine them with Web-based systems to build a composite application, which means new application development will be faster than if organizations had to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel,” Cunningham said.
The CTO of software vendor, IDS Scheer, Wolfram Jost, said SOA has been around for years despite all the buzz. He said inadequate support for cross-functional processes is a top management issue.
“If you implement an ERP (system) today you can guarantee in a year you’ll need to change your processes, and today’s architectures cannot support process changes easily and [inexpensively],” Jost said. “SOA is an enabler to allow changes to business processes.”
When it comes to making the pitch to the CEO for an SOA-based approach, Jost said the case must be made in business terms.
“It’s important to show to your executive management that this technical stuff supports higher growth and profit,” he said.
Despite the SOA hype, it appears getting that executive buy-in remains an uphill battle.
Steve Tieman, vice-president of strategic modernization initiatives with Estee Lauder, said he doesn’t see a business case beyond the firm’s existing SAP portal and Estee Lauder’s senior executives don’t see a business value in the agility offered by SOA.
“I feel SOA is being pushed from the technical perspective, and that’s not going to convince our decision makers that we should spend the money and time to make that work,” Tieman said.
Debra Boykin, global business analyst at the brewery, Molson Coors, said SOA is still a pretty fuzzy concept.
“I think SOA is still a pretty fuzzy concept and it’s going to need a lot more explanation for us to get our arms around it.”
– with Darren Pauli