Service oriented architecture (SOA) isn't enough. What we also need is service oriented business.
We talk about how SOA enables IT to align with the business, but that assumes that there's a business model for IT to align to. A significant concern I have on a lot of projects is that us technical people are going to go to the business people and say, "Please tell us about the repeatable business processes composed of reusable business tasks you use to operate your business (so that we can develop corresponding services to model the business as an SOA)" and the business people are going to reply, "Our what?" Business people often make their business look to us IT people like a random series of events they make up as they go along, and that's difficult to model as SOA or anything else.
So for a while now, IBM has been saying that SOA isn't just an IT thing. In the whitepaper "IBM’s SOA Foundation," which is a year-and-a-half old now, we talk about the premise that all businesses have a business design, that "describes how that business works." It also says: "The primary goal of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is to align the business world with the world of information technology (IT) in a way that makes both more effective." So for SOA to be effective, the business needs a design for IT to align with. And it's not just a matter of IT aligning with the business; it's a matter of business and IT aligning with each other. IT uses SOA, but it can't make SOA successful by itself; business has to help, and in fact has an equally important role.
Applying SOA to the business (not (just) IT) is the central theme of Sandy Carter's new book, The New Language of Business. That book doesn't really talk about technology, much less products; and yet it's an SOA book. How's that? Because it talks about using SOA to make business work better, primarily by organizing a business into a service oriented design. This design can be modeled by IT; it's something IT can align with. I'm thinking of this as a service oriented business; Sandy says this makes your business more "flex-pon-sive*."
This is a theme IBM execs are talking about more and more. In the webcast "My CEO thought Flexibility & SOA were just an IT issue until I told him this...," which I discussed in SOA: It's not just for IT anymore, Sandy talks about how "making the business more agile and successful through IT systems ... is a business issue that directly affects [your CEO and Line of Business executives]." Steve Mills, in his Impact 2007 keynote, calls SOA "business-driven computing."
SOA may be somewhat effective in isolation as a pure IT effort, but to be much more effective, not only should IT be service oriented, but also the business should be service oriented. We not only need service oriented architecture (in IT), we also need service oriented business.
Service Oriented Business