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The SOA Gamble: One In Three Companies Are Disappointed, Our Survey Finds

Increased complexity and high costs are a culprit. BT offers lesson in doing service oriented architecture right.
TIME FOR CHANGE
BT had a pressing business need, says Glass, to transform itself in a newly deregulated environment from a telecommunications products company to a customer-oriented services company, where a customer may be a former competitor who's now selling broadband over the "last mile" of BT's copper wire network. To ensure that services were built for this new customer era and not the old product era, BT formed customer experience teams that laid down the requirements new services must meet.

chart: Goals For SOA
BT started out designing straightforward services, such as billing or customer address checking, that could be used for BT's retail customers or for a new third-party broadband provider piggybacking on BT's network. By keeping a customer focus, Glass says, BT was able to identify 160 core capabilities that BT provides, each with five to 15 operations. It boiled down to BT identifying core business processes and figuring out the IT services used to perform them. By building the services for reuse, a service that works for one business process can frequently be implemented in another.

The result is that both BT and its 400 business partners, who are building products on top of BT's services, can leverage the SOA infrastructure. It has helped BT cut time to market with a new service from 270 days to 90 days, says Glass. BT is three years into building services and is roughly 85% of the way complete. Glass hopes to be finished in 2009.

There's not one way to build an SOA. Only 34% of companies use business process management software, and 30% use an enterprise service bus. BT does use BPM software from BEA, but not an ESB--instead integrating services with older technologies, such as IBM WebSphere MQ.

What matters is being able to identify and isolate services, integrate them with enough other services or legacy systems to make them useful again and again, and wring cost savings and business improvements from them. Too many companies aren't making it to that last step.

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