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Engineering Firm Constructs Application Integration Strategy With SOA

A service-oriented architecture lets Washington Group International unite common practices across its wide range of businesses. Find out what the company has learned from its integration project.
SOA in Sync with WGI Corporate Vision

It's a dream come true for an IT manager when a technology project proposal fits hand-in-glove with the corporate business strategy. Just ask Rich Colton, application integration manager for Washington Group International, a Boise, Idaho-based engineering, construction and management firm. WGI's corporate initiative to integrate applications and eliminate duplicate processes across all lines of the business--called the Washington Way--so far has made Colton's job of selling IT's new SOA projects to upper management a breeze.

When Colton accepted his position at WGI in 2004, his boss, the director of information systems, had already established SOA (service-oriented architecture) as a priority within IT. The firm's first real SOA buy was low-key, by WGI project standards: The Oracle BPEL Process Manager software and related hardware purchase (about a half-million dollar investment) didn't require scrutiny by upper management because it was part of previously approved, single sign-on software buy for Oracle Portal. Colton and his boss did, however, have to sell the project within the IT organization itself. "Some IS managers were skeptical about SOA, particularly the performance," Colton says. Once they saw the technology demos, however, they were on board with the project.

Colton will have to make his case to upper management for his next big SOA purchase, Oracle's BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) software. He doesn't expect much resistance, however. The software has some obvious benefits for WGI: BAM's real-time information would be helpful for tracking progress on a construction project, for example. "Normally, project [management] information is posted on a weekly basis, but it would be nice to see what's going on currently in a project," he says.

And the company's success with its existing Web services-driven apps should help sell BAM and other future SOA initiatives. Even so, Colton says it's too soon to measure any ROI on the Web services projects due to the long-term nature of WGI's projects for commercial clients. And, next time around, he'll try to do a better job of talking business capabilities, rather than getting tangled in the technological weeds of the acronym-laden and developer-focused SOA market. "I think each time I do this, I get better at selling the business capabilities," Colton says.

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