SOA 'must involve business managers': users

Conference attendees re-enforce need for business involvement

Service-oriented architecture initiatives must involve managers across the business, in order to avoid losing sight of the overall strategic goals, executives say.

In SOA projects, success is often measured by how much they help to deliver changes quickly, manage IT processes within a clear framework, and reduce costs through process simplification, executives said IDC's recent SOA Conference in London.

Dave Hayward, data and systems integration manager at parcel delivery business TNT, said the company had learnt through its own SOA projects that it was vital to involve different parts of the business.

"We had to make sure that we were delivering common business services that everyone understood," he said. "We had tended to create services that were too big so we had to do some regression testing. We had a bit of a purist view of SOA before we began."

Hayward said that through an SOA project over the last year, using iWay software to integrate applications, it had been able to speed up data translations from legacy systems by "hundreds of times".

Publisher News International agreed that all IT users have to be remembered during SOA projects. It said it had used SOA to create user-friendly applications and easily renewable processes to support its SAP ERP platform.

"It was vital for us that the interface remained constant for users, and that processes were easy to maintain and reuse," explained Steve Shannon, programme director of support solutions.

David Jones, head architect at Irish Life Investment Managers added: "Keeping the business with you, and linking what you do with real business projects, are challenges."

The company is using a BEA Weblogic-based SOA transition to help it respond quickly to competitors in the market, by efficiently creating the applications and processes to support changes. "Keeping the business with you, and linking what you do with real business projects, are challenges," said David Jones, head architect.

The success of the project in enabling faster application development had led parent group Irish Life & Permanent to start a group-wide SOA investment, he said.

Andy Holdup, principal IT consultant at Hampshire County Council, said that in the public sector it is equally important for SOA projects to respect the needs of different departments, especially considering the many operations that could be affected.

"The demand for services is rocketing," he said. "How do we cope with this when revenues from tax are not increasing in line with it? SOA has to support the extensive changes each department needs to make."

The council plans to use SOA to help manage the IT behind processes such as placing orders, choosing suppliers and paying invoices.

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