SOA helps build dialogue between IT and users

New ways ease developer grunt work, freeing-up time for user training, IT managers say

Shaygan Kheradpir, CIO at Verizon Communications, gets several mostly cordial instant messages each day from line-of-business workers — such as customer service representatives — asking for help with their IT systems.

Kheradpir, whose IM address is available to all of the company’s 250,000 employees, largely credits the company’s four-year-old service-oriented architecture for the comfortable relationship between Verizon’s IT and business groups. He says the SOA has eased low-level technical work, giving IT developers more time to work with end-users when building applications.

Verizon’s CIO spoke at the recent BEAWorld 2006 conference, where he and other users said they are expanding their focus on SOA and eyeing an emerging set of tools that promise to better nurture the relationship between business and IT, which has often been thorny.

At the conference, San Jose-based BEA brought out a new middleware offering, SOA 360, that includes components aimed at improving company-wide collaboration on development projects.

Core to the new middleware is WorkSpace 360, a unified set of SOA tools designed to bring business analysts, architects, developers and IT personnel into a shared workspace for collaboration and interaction, according to BEA. WorkSpace also includes the SOA metadata repository BEA gained with its acquisition of Flashline.

Mike McCoy, director of architecture and quality engineering at Accredited Home Lenders in San Diego, said at the conference that he is on the lookout for tools to improve collaboration between IT workers.

McCoy says his firm would be interested in using WorkSpace if the mortgage lender’s 50 to 75 services could easily be added to the Flashline metadata repository.

Clinton Chow, chief application architect for the city of Chicago, says his organisation is seeking tools to improve collaboration among technical and business users.

“We have developer-centric collaboration tools, but they are not business-user-friendly,” Chow says. “You want to satisfy the business needs, but business users don’t care about the underlying technology.”

Tools that would “enable the business units and technical side to convey their thoughts would be very helpful,” he says.

Kurt Anderson, administrator of the myAflac portal at insurer Aflac, says his company built a web service that allows 11,000 insurance agents to access different types of data, so it doesn’t have to print and mail such data.

The Aflac SOA application cost US$600,000 (NZ$912,000) to build, and the company estimates that it will result in savings of more than US$3.2 million annually.

Anderson says Aflac would be interested in using WorkSpace to help streamline communications between business analysts and IT staffers, and to improve its governance efforts.

Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis, says that despite BEA’s “rhetoric”, he expects different corporate groups will continue to work in their silos.

“That is just a reality,” he says.

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