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How to Get the Most from SOA

How to Get the Most from SOA

According to Comcast CIO Andy Baer, service-oriented architecture is not about architecture, and certainly not about technology. It’s about billing, ordering, customer service, human resources, payroll – you know, the business. And that’s where the benefits lie

Reader ROI

  • When you should consider SOA
  • What kinds of businesses are unsuited to SOA
  • The importance of IT governance to ensure application reuse

Service-oriented architecture, or SOA, has moved from buzzword of the moment to a concept that has absorbed the attention of CIOs at enterprises large and small (but mainly large). According to our State of the CIO 2007, 19 percent of local respondents were already working on their SOA, 15 percent were planning to start this year and 22 percent defined it as a long-term goal.

An architecture strategy that attempts to build all the software assets in a company using the service-oriented programming methodology and then integrating them through Web services, the grand vision for SOA is to enable businesspeople to take control of modifying, mixing and matching the different applications defined as services (for example, "get customer credit record" or "find invoice") together into new process combinations of their own. The idea is to prevent the business from having to wait, twiddling their thumbs, while IT develops new applications customized to their needs. The advantages of this strategy are obvious: increased agility; an improved understanding of business processes and therefore an increased ability to make business-process improvements; faster time to market; organic IT-business alignment; and, because the services can be reused, IT is freed up to innovate. The problems are just as obvious: Building an SOA is time-consuming and hard, and it requires a great deal of patience and commitment from both IT and the business.

Andy Baer, CIO of Comcast, has developed an internal IT strategy around SOA that aligns technology to meet his company's business needs and objectives. He also oversees the integration of the IT organizations in former Time Warner and Adelphia cable systems recently acquired by Comcast. He spoke with CIO about how to maximize the benefits of SOA.

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