IBM's software chief warns against SOA mismatch

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IBM's software chief warns against SOA mismatch

Early SOA adopters focus on IT benefits, overlook potential business savings.

Even though service-oriented architectures are touted as a way to grow revenues because of its flexible application architecture, investments in the technology are mainly justified for cost saving reasons, IBM's senior vice president of software, Steve Mills, said at the company's Impact 2007 conference in Orlando.

"Over the past four years we've seen a clear IT value from SOA. It's hard to look ahead and see business value, but it's often very clear if you look at technology value," Mills told delegates.

Service-oriented architecture offer a platform to develop and deploy componentized applications, allowing firms to build a capability such as single sign-on or currency conversion and reuse it across several applications. Having componentized building blocks also makes it easier to craft software, allowing for frequent changes as the business and business changes requires them.

An IBM survey among customers of its SOA platform indicated that nearly all customers achieved IT cost savings and improved development time. But only half said that they experienced an increase in revenues.

Robert LeBlanc, general manager for IBM Global Services, cautioned against overlooking business processes. If applications aren't build to allign with processes, it undermines SOA's main benefits.

"There are still a lot of clients that really don't understand their underlying business process," LeBlanc said.

"Or when they map their business process, and map their underlying it structure, they don't match. The impediment of mismatch is extremely high."

IBM at the event pitched its services organization as a way to help overcome the mismatch between IT and business focus in adopting SOAs. The company also unveiled nine of ready-made composite business services that perform common tasks such as combining rate quotes from several insurance providers for agents selling insurance policies.

"We will give you more tools that allow you to identify the business impact and to calculate and commit return on investment for service oriented architecture investment. We are helping you to take this capability to the next level and justify it within your companies," said LeBlanc.

The company also released a three-dimensional video game that helps business people to build more efficient business processes. The game dubbed Innov8 uses 3D environments similar to those found in Second Life. It aims to break down barriers between business and IT people.
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