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Monday, February 07, 2005

SOA : Process Flexibility & Customer Focussed Enterprise

Services-oriented architecture let companies roll out products faster and quickly adapt applications to changing customer demands.A service-oriented architecture has services that developers create in a service layer. The services that they develop have published interfaces. These interfaces support a distinct business domain. Organizations that focus their development effort around the creation of services, will realize many benefits.Services-oriented architectures help simplify IT by making it possible to create libraries of services that can be called upon to deliver features and perform tasks. That means less custom-software development, near real-time delivery and updating of applications, software component reuse, and the ability to cater apps to business processes rather than the other way around. Customer experience is the the single-most-powerful byproduct of a services-oriented architecture. By being able to roll out products and services faster, and quickly adapt apps to evolving customer demands, such architectures push companies toward being truly customer-centric organizations.There is no standards body verifying or validating services architectures, and there are no compliance tests. It's a matter of transforming the business so that technology supports business processes. Many companies may already have the technology in-house to make this happen, while others may need to invest in tools that offer Web-services APIs or let them make their data ready for XML.

Informationweek writes about First Command Financial Planning Inc., which provides banking, investment, and insurance services to the families of more than 300,000 armed-services personnel, sees the link between a services architecture and happy customers. First Command last year began developing a services architecture that would ensure, among other things, that it was able to present customers with all their financial information, plus tools that provide consistent views of that data. They built an integration-service layer, based on Sonic Software Corp.'s enterprise-service bus, that translates customer data into the formats required by various applications. Business rules direct that data and used an existing tool to serve as a guinea pig for the new framework: an online calculator in a customer-facing application called My Financial Journey. Using XML, the IT staff established the calculator as a common service to be delivered via the services architecture to multiple applications rather than embedding the calculator in each app.Customers are expecting more for less AND The only way to do that is to become more efficient, and to do that, you have to have flexibility , is the regining philospohy inside First command.
First Command is expanding its services-oriented architecture in a variety of ways. It has deployed a portal that acts as a front-end interface for delivering services to employees, agents, and clients. The IT dept is putting the finishing touches on a service that will let customers see their entire financial picture, regardless of where their assets are held, provided they're willing to provide First Command with the log-ins and passwords needed to pull data from other sites eventually,leading to an environment in which all of his applications tap services rather than rely on custom-coded features and functions. "With our existing legacy applications, we've found that if we make any changes in any one of them, we've had to change the way many of the applications interface with each other," says the IT head. Financial services has been ahead of other industries in using services architectures, but it's certainly not the only one to recognize their value. Other industries that use portals to let customers and partners conduct transactions and access information--such as travel, retail, government, and, more recently, health care- also are looking increasingly at the service approach as a business philosophy. "What we're seeing in those verticals is a great amount of interest in using Web services and SOA to help them create the user experience," Yankee Group analyst Dana Gardner says. "This is where I see a great deal of traction for SOA over the next 12 to 18 months." The Key thing in SOA is to plan well enough, identify the business drivers that need to be addressed and take the needed time to roll out the services, in order to make them stable enough to act as an enduring infrastructure - capable enough to act as a service assembly, provide more reuse, be scalable and provide high availability.

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