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Untagged  21 Apr 2009 8:06 AM
Make software pay by kvandersluis

A recent front-page article by Jeff Feinman in SD Times, "Bottom Line: Software had better pay", warns that economic conditions mandate any funded project better begin paying back immediately.  Supply chain management and automation improvements are cited as types of projects that continue to be funded during this economic down turn.  Automation in particular is an area ripe with opportunities aligned with service-oriented architecture (SOA).  Even more attractive is the fact that many automation opportunities are focused on improving a small number of business processes.  This means that a project has a manageable scope.  Project costs  are more predictable, thus return on investment (ROI) is more definite.  Projects with predictable and immediate ROI are much more attractive than those with fuzzy costs ROI, thus are more likely to get funded when budgets are tight.

Why is automation well-aligned with SOA?  Since the early days of SOA hype, the main goal of SOA has been to achieve business agility through the organization of computing functions as interchangeable parts, called services.  A business process is implemented by orchestrating services to accomplish the goals of the process.  Services are designed to be reusable, so a particular service invocation, like "Create new customer", can participate in many different business processes.  Most importantly, new business processes can largely be orchestrated from a comprehensive library of existing services.  Traditional development cycles of 12-18 months are replaced with the creation of a new orchestration, a process that may take just a few weeks.

While most companies are years away from having a comprehensive library of services, automation projects present an attractive "delivery vehicle" to begin or continue growing the service inventory.  Automation is the processes of exploiting computer resources to augment or replace manual processes traditionally performed by humans.  Architected in a service-oriented manner, a process or orchestration environment provides a visual tool to design and manage a business process.  Activities in the process generally are implemented by services.  Candidate tools for the process layer include ActiveEndpoints , Apache ODE , and ProcessMaker. Tools in the services layer would of course include XAware for information-oriented services, and Eclipse-based tools when custom-coded services are required.

So, while times are tough and budgets are tight, development work continues in key areas.  Companies can't afford to stop reacting to market demands or improving operations.  Service-oriented implementation strategies will conitinue to play a key role in the important work currently underway.  And, if architected properly, service-oriented projects help lay the groundwork for more strategic benefits in the future.

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