Collaboration Under SOA: The Human Aspects

8.4.1 Social Networking Effects for the Web 2.0 Enterprise

Another kind of benefit comes from the social networking that Web 2.0 offers. The enterprise Web 2.0 spectrum, shows the broad range of the relevant aspects spanning from completely social items on one side of the scale to the rather technical definition of SOA, its underlying technology, on the other end.

From the social end of the scale, there are several benefits that a company can realize. The predominant items, which count for larger organizations, are as follows:

  • Discovery of new relationships in the company

  • Access to knowledge of the organization and beyond

  • Connections to information and subject matter experts far beyond one's current network

  • Shared work by leveraging the connectedness of everything and everyone to work together in new ways

  • Improved quality of one's work via expert peer testing, reviewing, and commenting in community forums

  • Execution of better business decisions (and faster) through access to the right people, information, and new tools to manage tasks and expedite collaboration with others

The larger an organization, the more these advantages apply. The Web 2.0 elements reduce the anonymity of large enterprises. In the past, an employee relied on one LOB to point to the partners within the company to cooperate; Reorganizations, then, required changes to organizational charts to reflect changed conditions. New LOBs, new managers, and new employees in the line needed to be nominated. When Web 2.0 elements are in place and actively used by the workforce, each individual is more powerful. The individual employee can find the best connections, team up for better solutions, and deliver higher satisfaction to the customers.

8.4.2 Business Opportunities from Web 2.0 in a Service-Oriented Enterprise

Introducing an SOA-based organization with required IT services and implementing the described Web 2.0 elements helps the company to gain business opportunities. Summarizing, we can state the introduction of SOA and Web 2.0 in the enterprise:

  • Empowers the LOB.

  • Enables innovation (and thus quick reaction to business situations) at the departmental and individual levels.

    Eliminates (to a large degree), via the guided introduction of mashup and other situational applications, the often-frustrating communication and interpretations of requirements.

    Improves employee morale through empowerment and reduced bureaucracy. Important here is that the guidelines and rules be general purpose. In other words, you define and communicate the constitution of the company adjusted to service-oriented operations with Web 2.0 elements.

  • Generates business fit of IT.

  • Applications are better suited to the LOB needs.

    Short-term business domain needs are satisfied because the user becomes the developer.

    Addresses the long tail of the company's customers (as explained earlier in this chapter).

    Tactical solutions become part of the IT portfolio.

  • Shortens lifecycle and results in better ROI.

  • Less time is spent on development (utilizing reuse-see the earlier chapters, especially Chapter 5).

  • The development process itself becomes less expensive because the IT shop provides a platform, the rules, guidelines, the repository, and the governance instrumentation. The IT shop provides satisfying support for tools to allow end users to build situational applications to their individual needs.

Generally we can state that our experiences from projects at various organizations, including IBM, support the benefits of SOA and Web 2.0 to the individual and the business goals. It fits to the changing world, which is interconnected via the Internet, operating, trading, and dealing globally with employees on every continent. It allows 24 hours operating, developing, and production of the goods demanded by the customers worldwide.

As people discover the advantages of Web 2.0 in their private lives, they call for getting similar power at their fingertips at work. As shown, the advantages exist, and are ready to be exploited. However, there are also challenges to face and obstacles to overcome that derive from the introduction of SOA and Web 2.0 in the enterprise.

8.4.3 Challenges of the Mergence of SOA and Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

The first and most often the most worrying aspect is about controlling the chaos that seems to arise when everybody starts creating his or her own applications from company and external services. With the infrastructure in place, the end users start to build and run their mashups under the radar of the teams who are responsible for the IT in the company. There are no formal budgets assigned because the users create the mashups as part of their work. This means companies have to revise IT plans and business plans to reflect what employees are doing.

As explained earlier, users become co-developers, making the immediate implementation of solutions the objective. The board of IT architects or an equivalent governance institution should find ways to let users learn about architecture, installing watchdogs to gain control and support quality assurance. Certain education should be set up for the mashup-savvy users to ensure the required level of security and avoid malign behaviors. The latter should be cared for by quality assurance of the offered services by the providers, be them internal IT or external.

The tools and means of Web 2.0 invite spontaneous evolution, keeping every application in a perpetual beta state. Again, this is a question of automated quality assurance and inspections for severe violations. What an end user regards as "good enough" certainly will not pass traditional quality assurance, and when delivered by a professional IT shop, it may cause protests. Now the users themselves develop and implement many of their applications, and the service levels lower. Well-defined company standards or reliance on an industry canon can avoid poor quality, which would certainly counteract the expected benefits.

Finally, best practices do not yet exist for the enterprise- or industry-wide use of Web 2.0 elements outside the web communities where those have been developed. This means the involved parties feel left alone. But, in turn, it can fuel the community aspects and the team spirit to overcome it. In this context, pioneers among the employees are the ones taking the lead, connecting within and beyond the company boundaries, and it might become the norm for application development, as it is desired for agile lines of business.

Setting standards, implementing a governance board, and teaching the guidelines, as well installing control mechanisms are there to avoid that integration is pushed to the edge. Over time, we have no longer standard applications control the business processes and the operation flows, but services and RSS feeds take over.

A mix of internal and external services on a global scale will bring multiple development environments and middleware platforms into the game. Preferences of individuals may determine directions rather than a reuse-oriented standard. A trusted board of IT experts, not just knowing the existing systems but well experienced with Web 2.0 and recognized by the community, is needed to keep control of the framework and tools used by the users.

Letting happen uncontrolled developing any kind of mashups may cause severe problems to management of the situational and enterprise applications. So, the hard problems at enterprise IT gets harder (for example, the root cause analysis, error detection, data protection, and patch management). This all is, as you now know, part of SOA governance.

8.5 Conclusion

As shown, there are plenty of opportunities to gain benefits from an SOA in the enterprise. The described elements of Web 2.0 are providing the end user access to services. The loosely coupled nature of the services allows the end user to combine applications to suit immediate needs. A well-organized registry and repository of services is the backbone for a governed operation and supports most efficient application development.

A well-defined and deliberately cared for repository of people lets employees get instantaneous access to each other and allows them to collaborate at solving customer demands in shortest time at highest quality. All the described elements help to create the desired business agility in the company.

However, as shown in this book, there are practical guidelines, lessons learned from first pilots and enterprises that started the journey toward SOA several years ago. All this we collected from our project teams working on real-life solutions, and it should be helpful to every enterprise architect who is responsible for his/her company transition. In the last chapter, we give an outlook on expected technology and business development based on SOA and Web 2.0 as we know it today.

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