Increasing business flexibility means first knowing and identifying the core business differentiating activities of your business. In a session entitled "SOA: The Key to Business Flexibility...Hear How to Start," IBM WebSphere general manager Robert LeBlanc explained the basic premise of what's come to be known as "service orientation," and why 80% of IT organizations are expected to be employing it in some form or fashion by 2006.
Think of service orientation as a way of integrating your business as linked services and the outcomes they bring. Business processes aren't always that unique -- the accounts receivable application in this department is probably a close second cousin to the one from the group down the hall near the vending machines you frequent -- and a service orientation takes advantage of this commonality by enabling you to more easily mix and match services.
The business impact? The more reusable your assets, the more efficient your operations. By automating the implementation of your processes through a service orientation, you eliminate the manual deployment of tasks. You can also more easily pinpoint future process improvements, because you will have an environment that allows you to visualize your actual process performance against key performance indicators.
Standard Life Assurance: SOA Brings Real Business Advantage
Standard Life Assurance is one of Europe's leading assurance company's, employing over 12,000 people and managing over 50B in assets for over seven million customers worldwide. Ian Muir, a senior manager with Standard Life, joined Robert LeBlanc onstage yesterday to explain how his company embarked on the road to SOA way back in 1998, and detailed the benefits the company has realized thus far from its implementation.
With over 1,500 IT staff worldwide, Standard Life's IT operations enable some 1.6 million transactions per day. Deciding early on to employ IBM's WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Business Integration as its foundation stack, Standard Life implemented its SOA across its entire U.K. group of companies and Canada, and now has over 70 service-oriented applications running in production.
With the flexibility this environment brought to the company, Standard Life UK was able to launch one of its most successful pension products ever, and with an SOA framework which included processes that enabled multi-channel and multi-trading partner processes.
Now, over 40 percent of its mainframe transactions are initiated via SOA applications, and the group now has 320+ reusable business services in the company's Business Service Catalogue and Directory. Furthermore, over 50 percent of those services are reused, and a single XML-based search service is stretched across 19 individual lines of business.
In the process, Mr. Muir indicated that this effort helped transform his IT organization by creating consistency in both its development efforts and operations, and also helped his team gain increased confidence from the lines of businesses. As he put it, "Our LOBs both believe in and use our IT capability."
Words that CIOs everywhere would love to hear more of, I'm sure.
Take Action...But Begin With the End In Mind
As Mr. LeBlanc concluded IBM's vision for service orientation, he articulated some key steps you can take to get started. First, learn more through our SOA Webcast, in which IBM WebSphere vice president for Strategy, Channel, and Marketing, Sandy Carter, walks you through the fundamentals of SOA.
Next, take the IBM SOA Assessment, which allows you to better understand your organization's current state of SOA adoption in clear, straightforward terms, while also communicating the benefits and advantages you can access now with your existing infrastructure. It also will provide some recommendations for achieving greater business flexibility with SOA.
Finally, learn how you can get beyond your business units with Component Business Modeling, or CBM. CBM is a very structured, disciplined methodology that will help you identify and map out your core business framework on a single page. With CBM, you can work to identify the basic building blocks of your business including the people, processes, and technologies and build a map of the core differentiating processes that you can then begin to consider for harvesting and building as core services in your SOA.