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A Key Phase in SOA Programs Business Service Realization

The key message is to ensure that the enterprise business drivers and objectives are clear and unambiguous

SOA in the Cloud

Cloud Computing Expo - Today, every IT enablement and business transformation task has an element of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) embedded in it.

However, even with matured SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) processes for IT execution, the gap in identifying business services for an SOA implementation still remain. Architects and business stakeholders are generally found struggling with questions such as "When should we identify a service?"; "Who should be identifying them?"; "What should be a service and why?"

Service identification in enterprise architecture involves realizing the enterprise's business vision. However, the business vision statement often gets lost as stakeholders confront and struggle with day-to-day activities. Therefore, it is essential for IT to be clear about business objectives when answering service identification questions.

This article provides an approach that can be used in all SOA execution programs where service identification poses a challenge. It analyzes the transformation program of an organization laying down next-generation multi-channel eCommerce business with capability to extend and onboard new business models and channels involving business service delivery for B2B (Business to Business) trading partners and affiliates.

When to Begin?
For any business transformation and its supporting IT enablement, the journey of service identification implicitly starts with defining the vision statement. It must be understood that the business vision is the only reason for initiating and driving the complete SOA engagement. The business vision(s) must be objectively broken down into business drivers primarily in the following areas shown in Figure 1.

These business drivers set down many architectural principles for further phases of work. Figure 2 provides the key aspects for service identification.

Business Service Realizations
Business Service Realization is one of the key activities in a transformation program. It helps organizations build an IT system according to business objectives and enables them to evolve continuously with the changing market conditions. In the current scenario, it is important that IT systems support the dynamism in the business and market conditions. The trick is to build an IT system over a set of business services. However, it is imperative to understand the driving forces and influencers before constructing business services, since missing any detail can lead to a brittle IT system. This section provides an analysis of the various driving forces and influencers that must be considered to realize business services. Business Services, by definition, need to encapsulate the business functions being offered.

There can be multiple perspectives when we talk about a business service, such as a business service offered by:

  • An organization to its customers
  • An organization to its suppliers and partners
  • Partners and suppliers to the organization
  • The internal organization to fulfill certain business functions, etc.

Figure 3 provides key considerations for Business Service Realization within a transformation program.

All the perspectives mentioned earlier will have different sets of driving forces and influencers that need to be considered before completing the realization of a service.

Driving Forces for Business Service Realization
Any business service realization task needs to consider the following aspects at a high-level before moving forward:

  • What: What are the key business entities that one should consider to meet the stated objectives?
  • How: How can these key business entities be aligned to meet the end objectives?
  • Where: In which geographies will these entities be located as per the stated objectives?
  • Who: Who in the organization needs to be involved to meet the end objectives in the best possible way?
  • When: When do all these aspects need to come together to meet the end objectives?

What - Key Business Entities
It is important to identify the key business entities that will be involved as per the stated objectives and their inter-dependencies.

For example, any eCommerce website rollout strategy involves the organization itself; the product to be offered; and the customers, suppliers, shippers, and warehouses to meet the end objective of doing business on the Internet. In addition, it is important to understand the interlinking of these entities. This provides:

  • The correct representation of these entities within a business service
  • Entity linkage rules to be encapsulated within business services

How - Business Process Models
Business Process Models or business processes are the biggest chunk of work within any business service realization task. These processes establish how an organization does business with the various entities identified.

For example, the eCommerce rollout strategy deals with customer experience as one of the business processes. It includes customer experiences with regard to viewing the catalog, comparing various offerings, selecting and checking out products, ordering and order modification, and after-sales customer service. This analysis provides:

  • Process hierarchy for service encapsulation
  • Process and entity dependency
  • Business process model in conjunction with the where, who and when aspects. It enables bringing out the following aspects of the process models:
    - Variation of process based on geography (where)
    - Regulatory compliance with respect to geography (where)
    - Organization structure (who) and process ownership for rolling out the process model
    - Key events and cycle time (when) for the process models

Where - Business Logistics
Business Logistics bring in the variation of process models and entity relationships in the business offering. This aspect lays down the process variation required based on the geography and regulatory compliance specific to that geography. It thus provides the required inputs to make business services flexible enough to handle various situations. For example, order fulfillment which includes the item "television" within the UK would require that a government agency be notified of the sale, whereas it is not required in other geographies.

Who - Business Organization Structure
Business Organization Structure is an important factor to consider while defining process models since it is critical to have the right people architecture (Roles and Responsibilities) to support the process models. The interplay between process models and the people (actors) results in a clear demarcation of boundaries within and without the enterprise for the ownership of process areas. This helps identify the business service hierarchy to support changes with minimal impact.

An example is an eCommerce site that starts with multi-channel initiative needs to support the standard way of product purchase, order visibility, claims, returns/refunds and, across channels, this results in the business organization structure aligning with the commerce, order management and operations where each results in a standard service to deliver consistent behavior across the customers and internal users.

When - Business Events and Time Cycle
Business goals need to be measured and appropriate action planned to meet the program's overall objectives. This aspect needs to be considered while identifying critical events and cycle times to bring in the desired changes. There are different connotations to this aspect for the planning and execution stages.

While planning, it is important to lay down the time cycle to achieve the end objectives and how the business service needs to be rolled out to address different events identified during planning. For example, if the rollout of a marketplace offering follows a B2C offering, the services to be rolled out should consider the appropriate variation in timescale in rolling out the services. It enables planning of the key events to be monitored during execution to ensure that the rollout plan is successful.

One should not lose sight of any existing IT assets such as legacy modules or traditional enterprises with which the business needs to interact to fulfill its vision. In order to ensure incremental investment in infrastructure, the business solutions should be implemented in such a way that they are scalable without having to make any changes to existing implementations. The following are the key influencers in business services realization:

Key Influencers
COTS Strategy
Most enterprises end up buying a number Commercial, Off-The-Shelf (COTS) applications to ensure lower total cost of ownership and rapid IT enablement. It is important to closely review the process models and entities to identify encapsulation of these processes embedded inside these ready applications. When these applications need to communicate with each other to fulfill any business process, it becomes necessary to expose the appropriate business capabilities as a service.

Legacy Interactions
The business scalabilities of existing IT assets can be deeply entrenched within legacy applications. To avoid the re-development of such business capabilities and to ensure that the modernization of applications is done incrementally/iteratively, the business capabilities within legacy interactions need to be identified and provisioned as services.

Architecture Layering
The classification of application layers while defining the architecture enforces certain rules in which the architecture layers communicate with each other. The presentation layer in a distributed architecture must be decoupled from the business capabilities in the business logic layer. This must be done in such a way that the business logic layer can communicate not just with one form of User Interface (UI) but also with devices like the mobile and channels like the IVR or SMS. In this case, such business capabilities need to be identified as services.

Third-Party Interactions
In order to ensure that the total cost of ownership is kept low, enterprises are using third-party services to fulfill their business vision. Post code verification by Royal Mail, product reviews by Bazaarvoice, and product recommendations by Choicestream are just a few examples of this. Such business capability dependency on third-party interactions that cross the network domain boundaries needs to be wrapped by abstract service interfaces.

QoS Capabilities
Generally, the quality of service (QoS) is not categorized as a business service but is termed as infrastructure or non-functional service. However, with a lot of emphasis on leveraging B2B network gateways, such capabilities are now closely related, expanding businesses with B2B trading partners. To provide an example: the authentication and authorization capability in Amazon Web Services can be core to delivery of the public services that satisfies the objective of having a secured integration gateway. Other examples of QoS capabilities are auditing and service-level agreement (SLA) monitoring.

SOA Principles
The SOA principles for service realization are listed in Table 1. The business service needs to completely satisfy the SOA principles with a valid rationale.

The Last Word
While there does not exist any silver bullet approach for service identification, the key message is to ensure that the enterprise business drivers and objectives are clear and unambiguous before initiating the service identification process. The key influencers must be identified and validated against the enterprise principles before realizing them into services. The service design principles need to be communicated and enforced through a strong governance process. The service ideation and delivery must pass through life-cycle governance with the participation of business stakeholders, enterprise architects and IT supplier/vendor management. The aspects discussed above can be the checkpoints or stages to ensure that the business services are relevant toward business strategy and hence deliver optimum return on investment.

More Stories By Bhupesh Naik

Bhupesh Naik is a technical architect, a certified SOA solution designer and practitioner working with Infosys Technologies Ltd. He has 10 years of experience in multiple platforms and technologies and has delivered large-scale SOA engagements in domains like Retail, Defence, Insurance and Transport.

More Stories By Manas Sarkar

Manas Sarkar is a principal architect with the Infosys Enterprise Solutions group and heads the Technology Council for the BPM-EAI business unit. He has been leading many client engagements for strategizing and implementing SOA/EAI solutions for large-scale IT programs.

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