Big-S services

Over the last year or so, I have been leading an SOA initiative which by all accounts has gone relatively well, with one downside. All the developers and architects will give it a qualified thumbs up (hopefully not just because it’s good resume fodder), but the business analysts and business owners of the applications that are enabled by our beautiful service catalog, have no appreciation of what the services are and how they affect them. The only exception from this is services that we expose to our customers as web services.

So how do we ‘take SOA to the business’ – and more importantly, why should we?

The recent release of TOGAF 9, which includes a chapter on SOA has made it clearer. Basically, we have been doing developer-led SOA (or for the sake of my ego, architect-led SOA), building little-S services that are important building blocks for the techies, but the business couldn’t care less about.  Ironically, the highly resuseable services that the developers love are probably the ones that are least meaningful to the business (future post on this).    In order to ‘take SOA to the business’, we need to think of the entire business as a set of capabilities that we provide to customers through a combination of people, process and technology.   These capabilities are big-S services,  and are recognisable elements  of the business value chain (e.g. assessing a credit card application).  Their work has a quantifiable real world effect on the bottom line (as opposed to a technical real world effect such a database table being updated), and similarly their SLAs on performance, availability etc. are traceable to a commitment to a real customer or other business stakeholder.

But wait, there’s more.

ITIL v3 gives us a service-centric framework for managing the lifecycle of IT services, i.e. capabilities provided by IT as the technology contribution to big-S services, and is already well established at the ‘lights-on’ end of the service lifecycle. In my opinion there is no reason why we couldn’t use ITIL as an overarching framework to manage the lifecycle of all big-S services, and then overlay whatever else we need at the lower-level to manage the lifecycle of the little-S services that contribute to a big-S service. As an examlpe, this is where we would see the intersection between the service registry/repository and the CMDB.

So Bill (are there people in my service), I think I might finally be getting it.  Now I’m off to re-read the debate on B-SOA vs T-SOA 🙂

Eureka

ps – if you have a southern drawl, replace big-S service with ‘Business service’ and little-S service with ‘Technical service’.

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