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2015-01-28

The value of a Service Orientated Architecture in the Digital Enterprise


Many companies are currently in the process of improving their digital offerings via mobile and web platforms as a basis for driving revenue and enhancing customer engagement....

Many companies are currently in the process of improving their digital offerings via mobile and web platforms as a basis for driving revenue and enhancing customer engagement. More often than not organisations adopt a divide and conquer approach to making such services available on digital platforms and in doing so, their enterprise architecture tends to suffer.

For example, consider a financial services organisation who made their loan application service available on the web five years ago and made the same service available on a mobile platform two years ago. It is probable that the initial web application was developed to directly integrate with back off systems while the mobile application was independently developed to integrate with the same systems – both systems share a common data set and little else. Should this organisation wish to roll out additional services (e.g. top-up application) to customers then the development effort will be executed on two fronts (i.e on both web and mobile platforms). If the organisation continues with this strategy to the digital enablement of their organisation they will find that their systems will be fragmented and increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain, extend or support.

Consider the alternative scenario where the organisation adopts a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) for the delivery of new systems. In this scenario, existing systems are left in place but the essential data and logic elements of the system are exposed in the form of web/xml-based services which perform specific programmatic or data function. These essential services are then available for:

  • Invocation as part of a web-based system/platform.
  • Invocation as part of a mobile-based system/platform.
  • Inclusion in a new business process that is defined/invoked and managed using Business Process Management (BPM) tools which enable analysts to graphically author business processes which consist of one or more SOA services.

In this scenario, all systems share a common set of data and business services which are available to be invoked as required.

The key benefits for the organisation in implementing a SOA-based architecture:

  • A more consistent user experience is promoted across multiple channels (e.g. web, mobile) as a consequence of share data and application services.
  • IT maintenance and support costs may reduce over time as the size of the maintainable codebase is reduced.
  • Integration costs are reduced as a consequence of loose coupling of systems.
  • Business agility is increased by enabling analysts to flexibly define/adjust business process as required by the business.

In this context, it is clear that a strong business case can be made for the implementation of a Service Oriented Architecture. This is particularly true in the case where the architecture can be introduced on a phased basis and part of a larger program to introduce new digital channels.

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