Service-Oriented: Approach Solves Business Problems - InformationWeek

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11/25/2003
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Service-Oriented: Approach Solves Business Problems

The service-oriented enterprise reference architecture can be used to address diverse business problems.

Consider a large utility company that had to replace an aging power-outage-management system because of new requirements for meeting service-level agreements. The company needed to replace the mainly mainframe-based application with a more manageable, service-oriented architecture. Process automation was a key requirement to make the change viable over the long term. The utility hoped to implement an event-based process-management infrastructure that could react to external stimuli such as power-level fluctuations and power outages.

A service-oriented architecture was an attractive option because it provided a way to create a system that was standards-based, allowing the application to be changed quickly as the business required, without a great deal of manual recoding. Ideally, the system would let the utility modify business-process flows, and the underlying services automatically would service the changes.

A service-oriented approach doesn't require redeveloping applications from the ground up to make them services. Rather, monolithic apps, such as the mainframe-based outage-management system, could be queried and accessed to appear as though they were providing a variety of services that other apps within the organization could access, such as the outage-management executive dashboard that was built using Web-application technology.

To ensure the success of this project, both the line-of-business and IT groups were involved in defining and outlining the problem. Executive sponsorship was almost guaranteed (not something that can always be counted on), in this case because of the importance of regulatory compliance. A large investment in an event-driven business-process-management system was deemed necessary early in the project.

DoculabsThe utility realized a return on its investment within a year because the technology was leveraged in subsequent projects throughout the company. The organization met the requirements for compliance and has succeeded in deploying and maintaining the application. The company has been able to reroute and automate processes effectively, cutting processing costs and costly errors. In the future, it would like to be able to more effectively analyze its business process and get real-time feedback on the performance of its processes. The information will be invaluable when reconfiguring and optimizing existing process flows.

Gautam Desai and Linda Andrews are analysts with Doculabs, a technology consulting firm. Contact them at [email protected] or www.doculabs.com.

Illustration by Jeffrey Pelo

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