SOA and BPM

Aligning Business Needs with Your Architecture

Introduction

Traditional architectures are constraining the ability of organizations to swiftly adapt to changes in the business landscape. A new, evolving architecture with a service-orientation viewpoint, combining SOA and BPM, helps enterprises swiftly align their business needs with the IT architecture.

This document presents best practices in composing SOA-enabled business processes and a case study of how to create a configurable business architecture. It covers the importance of architecture for business planning and execution while highlighting the traditional and the new viewpoints of architecture. It discusses some of the implementation specifics,detailing how business needs will be mapped to service orientation, and presents a case study. It concludes with enablers and critical risk factors for effectively aligning business needs with enterprise architecture.

Architecture: A Key Foundation for Business Execution

Enterprise architecture is a description of the current and future structure and behavior of an organization’s processes, information systems, and personal and organizational subunits, ending with the organization’s core goals and strategic direction. Figure 1 is an abstraction of the various components associated with architecture at a high level. Companies have started applying architecture to improve their business architectures as well as to improve business performance and productivity

Overview of Traditional Architecture Viewpoints

Implementing an enterprise architecture generally starts with documenting the organization’s strategy and goals, as shown in the topmost bar in Figure 1. Part of this work is the company’s operating model,which describes how the company wants to operatein the current business context and in the future business context and its requirements for business process standardization and integration.

As shown in the next bar, some of these business functions are provided as packaged solutions while others are applications that are custom developed within an organization. The next level is the meta-data, where the information model exists. The fourth level is the application infrastructure, which supports these packages and also the data model. In summary,as shown in Figure2, the traditional architecture typically addresses four layers of viewpoints: business application, data, and technology.

The business viewpoint deals with enterprise planning activities, which define the business mission,strategy, and goals. These translate into a business blueprint with high-level business requirements. A comprehensive approach to defining a business architecture includes defining capabilities, mapping processes, and establishing relationships with the people who input to the framework for business process management and execution.

The application viewpoint deals with the application components that encapsulate certain business capabilities or functions, and are defined in the business architecture into a deployable system. This viewpoint encompasses interactions between various system components, middleware, and links to the data architecture.

The data viewpoint deals with information attributes in business needs and provides the context, structure, and system interdependencies between information attributes. The technology viewpoint typically houses the business, application, and data viewpoints, and consists of the soft and hard infrastructure.

Business Disruptions:Misalignment of Business and IT

Business disruptions can be drivers, either positive or negative, that create new business needs. These drivers can be industry, business,technology, process, or IT-related. An example of an industry driver is government regulation, specifically the Sarbanes-Oxley Act,which has created the need for information transparency, workflow, and control. Meeting these needs is not immediately feasible with existing architectures because the data and applications were not designed to enable such capabilities. In order to implement these capabilities, the existing architecture must undergo several changes, beginning with the data layer. This process is time-consuming and takes a great deal of effort.

To look at another example, a business driver could be the complexity of the supply chain. Suppose your company has a very complex supply chain and management decides to have complete visibility and backing to supply chain events, to better manage disruptions in the supply chain. Again, this calls for fundamental changes in the existing architecture and involves complex effort.

The ability to align business needs to architecture is a function of time and effort known as clock speed. Clock speed is, in essence, a company’s ability to quickly acquire new capabilities and adapt to the changing business landscape. When faced with any business disruption or expanded or changed business context, IT is expected to start operating in the new or changed context almost immediately. This is not feasible with the traditional architectures, because traditional viewpoints are difficult to change. As Figure 3 shows, business disruptions cause gaps in the traditional architecture, including gaps relating to business capability, application, and data.

Service Orientation: The New Viewpoint of Architecture

Service orientation is a new viewpoint in enterprise architecture that is enabled by technologies such as SOA and BPM. It effects a loose coupling between the business and application viewpoints, providing an almost instantaneous ability to align to changing business needs. It also provides for location independence, meaning the ability to execute business functions without geographical limitations. This new viewpoint makes it possible for businesses to unshackle themselves from the constraints of traditional architecture, providing new opportunities and the ability to adapt to market conditions swiftly and effectively. In essence,service orientation has bestowed a new set of capabilities by enabling the genius loci of an enterprise to be anywhere in the business troposphere.

Figure 4 elaborates on how the typical business architecture is defined using a service-orientation viewpoint.

At the highest level, a service-oriented, business reference architecture captures organization-wide business objectives, measures, and outcomes, including service capabilities, agencies, customers, and partners. At the next level, process clusters provide the capabilities an organization needs. They are either packaged solutions or Web services solutions, and they have the processes and functions that the coprocesses invoke during runtime. The next layer is the service components, where individual business functions or subfunctions are exposed as positive. Below that, the business rules and components layer provides the business rules definition and invocation methods to access these business rules. The lowest layer is the data foundation, which involves metadata definitions, standardization, and governance.

As the above figures show, in enabling service orientation for enterprise architecture, each viewpoint has approximately three layers—conceptual, logical, and physical—each layer having key principles and models. Most of these principles and models are obvious,but the technologies have never before existed to implement these models in a form in which they are clearly separated. With the advent of SOA and BPM, it is now possible to implement the different layers and provide enterprises with new frameworks on which to build their enterprise architecture.

With each principle and model in the service-orientation approach, businesses can get a higher clock speed compared to the traditional architecture viewpoint. The principles across all three layers show that service-oriented architecture is more refined and mature than traditional architecture and provides a balance to enterprises by supporting both current and future business states equally.

As Figure 5 shows, the service orientation viewpoint provides the loose coupling between various viewpoints and quickly absorbs business disruption and needs

Service orientation can handle the business disruptions and align the various viewpoints of architecture in a changed or expanded business context, helping businesses to always align with the IT infrastructure without gaps in the business application and data viewpoint. This helps businesses to eventually manage their clock speeds and attain faster and sustainable value creation, which in turn gives them a much-needed competitive advantage.


Figure 4


Figure 5

Implementing Service Orientation

So, what does implementing service orientation entail? Overall, it requires planning and execution by an organized enterprise, with the stakeholders from all the different groups involved. First, the organization must choose an appropriate enterprise reference architecture from those known in the industry. Next is choosing the appropriate enterprise services architecture (ESA). This entails carefully analyzing the goals and needs of the enterprise and evaluating the different products on the market. The third step is to promote the data foundation by defining and standardizing metadata and implementing data governance. The following step is to organize the business processes and their logic in a context-independent way, wrapping the business logic in Web services.Next is implementing the right combination of coordination layers to address orchestration and choreography using SOA and BMP technologies. The final step is to deploy the business processes as location independent and easily accessible services that can be invoked anywhere within the business troposphere.

Choosing the Right Platform

Diverse options exist for choosing an appropriate platform to implement the ESA or the service-orientation viewpoint, and can be broadly classified into various groups, as shown in Figure 6.

The Zachman framework is rich in detail and a constantly evolving framework in tune with market realities. TOGAF (the Open Group Architecture Framework) is an increasingly popular open-source framework that provides advice on architecture governance and is well-aligned with contemporary enterprise architecture concepts, including service orientation.

Looking at vendor frameworks, enterprise architecture frameworks that are an extension of TOGAF are designed to support the effective adoption of packaged solutions to service-oriented enterprise.

The approach to enterprise service architecture offered by these vendors is to build on their existing platform and offer service-oriented solutions, with each platform having a set of advantages and disadvantages. In choosing the right platform, it is important to perform due diligence and understand how well these platforms fit into the business context and environment. For example, a natural and logical fit for manufacturers of ERPs would be enterprise service architecture solutions offered by the ERP vendors. A logistics provider whose core processes are around B2B and enterprise-architecture integration interactions would consider ESA solutions offered by the middleware vendor.


Figure 6

Any product or platform that supports enterprise service architecture should meet some basic criteria to be qualified as an ESA platform. These criteria include:

  • Runtime support for at least two or more technologies—Servlets, JSPs, Enterprise Java Beans, .Net, and so on
  • Server clustering support
  • Central configuration and administration
  • A rich and robust security framework
  • Support for workflow,especially role-based
  • Support for process modeling through third-party tools
  • Support for BPM-related standards, BPEL, and so on
  • Support for Web services standards, both new and existing—SOAP, XML, UDDI, and so on
  • Support for OLTP/multi-modal transaction
  • Support for enterprise application integration B2B, ETL, BAM
  • Application platform suite—Reusable business frameworks, business integration, portals

Once an organization has chosen an ESA platform, it looks next at how service orientation can be implemented. As Figure 7 shows, implementing a service orientation is an iterative process that begins with strategy planning and continues through various phases and the associated activities that must be accomplished before the organization can start reaping the benefits.


Figure 7

It is important to include governance early in the lifecycle so that best practices can be enforced across the organization. Coming back to business needs and the strategic assessment, it is important to reiterate that not every business process is the right candidate for service orientation. After considering what implementing service-oriented business processes entails, the next step is to determine which capabilities the business must deliver and which capabilities, when transformed by a service orientation, provide the best value to the organization.

Strategic assessment is crucial to the success of service orientation. The key is the ability to identify and assess the business processes from different perspectives in order to understand the benefits and how they translate into business value. Service orientation needs to be weighed and evaluated from the internal business, customer, environmental, and financial (value) perspectives so that business policies are truly evaluated based on pre-defined criteria.


Figure 7

Mapping Business Needs to Architecture

A strategic assessment begins with listing the various perspectives, including business rules, strategy, vision, industry drivers, and customer needs. These perspectives must be organized into relevant groups and each business goal or objective mapped to capabilities the organization must have to meet that goal. Each of these capabilities is then mapped to a service oriented business process. Finally, performing a cost-benefit analysis of building and deploying each service-oriented business process allows the organization to arrive at a clear assessment of the capabilities to be recommended.

Figure 8 shows a phased approach to mapping business needs to architecture. In the initial phase, once a strategy has been formulated and a strategic assessment performed on the business capabilities needed to implement the strategy, a business needs analysis must be carried out to understand the scope and functionality of the new capabilities. In the planning phase, appropriate resources are identified, and the growth and responsibilities are finalized, along with the project budget

In the analysis phase, the new business capabilities are analyzed for process architecture and metadata, and changes are identified based on the results of the analysis. During the definition phase, appropriate services are identified, and then composed and orchestrated to achieve the requisite business capability to support the new business need.


Figure 8

A Case Study:Creating a Configurable Architecture

ABC & Co is a leading global manufacturer of specialty chemicals and formulations for home care and cosmetics. Like many other manufacturers, ABC has a challenge in enabling new trading partners and complying with the requirements of dominant trading partners. Over the years these challenges have resulted in multiple business-to-business platforms, including the use of third-party, value-added networks. In addition, the cost and time involved in enabling and maintaining trading partners is a huge drain onresources. ABC formulated a strategy to consolidate all the B2B infrastructure on a single platform and leverage the chemical industry clearinghouse, CIDA, for ease of operation and faster response to the requirements of trading partners, while reducing the cost of bringing on new trading partners and, in the process, encouraging a very low maintenance cost.

The proposed solution is to implement an SOA/BPM-enabled integration product and a business package for the chemical industry clearinghouse. The benefits achieved are a reduced auto-management cost and, through concentration and foundation of the auto-management, a single global platform for using that connectivity, which reduces operational and maintenance cost.

Figure 9 shows how this business need has been translated into a configurable business architecture model. As shown, the new business architecture is printed along the different viewpoints and is implemented to support the strategy being adopted. The business architecture is fully configurable and can be instantaneously configured to support any changes relating to B2B processes or new process needs triggered by trading partners.

As shown in Figure 10, drilling down to a logical attraction of the architecture layer, the metadata is implemented as a combination of DTDs and the CIDA business package.

The adapters are used to push and pull the data from legacy and to translate the data in the required format. The DTDs and adapters are invoked using those services, which are then orchestrated using the BPM functionality of the tool. The BPM tool also offers the choreography required to manage the messaging with existing trading partners and to quickly enable a new trading partner.


Figure 9


Figure 10

Service orientation technologies have evolved and become mature, helping to enable the service orientation seamlessly. The terms of best practice are already defined and can be leveraged by successful implementation. The critical service factor for service orientation is adapting the service-driven enterprise architecture approach and a new solution, to accommodate SOA and BPM technology considerations.

Delivering Value with Service-Based Solutions

Service-based solutions can deliver value in a number of ways. As discussed earlier, they provide faster clock speed and deliver high-value velocity. They offer scalability, optimization, agility, reduced lifecycle cost, and better governance to the consistent application of policy and guidance. Finally, they offer the near-perfect alignment of business and IT.

Key Recommendations

Lastly, some key recommendations for aligning business needs with the service orientation viewpoint:

  • Service orientation requires an entirely different mindset. Plan and execute organizational transformation and change management.
  • Scoping is very important. Some business processes are fine the way they are; leave them alone.
  • Avoid pitfalls. Use pilots and proofs-of-concept for validating technology and candidate selection.
  • Develop and implement best practices early in the process, emphasizing reuse, clarity, and agility.
  • Service orientation provides an opportunity to capture hidden values. They can give you a quick payback and help you build a convincing business case for a broader initiative.
  • Go with an evolutionary approach rather than a “big bang” approach. Organizational change and technology infusion work best when implemented gradually. An organization needs time to adapt.
  • Choose the right mix of products and technologies for enabling and supporting the service orientation. This is critical for successful implementation of service orientation and for aligning your business needs with service-oriented architecture.
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