Jane Thomson, MD, Softworx, an EOH company and distributor of Infor in Sub-Saharan Africa, says that in the past, most applications were “built to last”; their longevity and robustness being the most prized features. However, today, the most important thing about an application is that it is “built to change”; its ability to reflect the dynamic nature of business now being its most important feature.
“With the rapid pace of change today, the need for transformation through flexible software applications that can change direction rapidly has never been greater. Yet the structures, processes and systems that we have today are inflexible: they are incapable of rapid change. ‘Built-for-change’ applications like Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) place the factors most likely to change – process flows, policies, and services – at the centre of the application’s design and provide a means to manage their prompt evolution.”
The core philosophies of SOA are interoperability and reusability through which the re-use of services and components is promoted, meaning that new applications can be quickly assembled to respond to changing market conditions or demands. With the shortening of project time frames comes a faster response to changing business requirements. SOA moves companies from a “previous generation” systems architecture based on independent applications, tightly coupled together by custom messages or processes, to a new type of architecture based on independent services tied together by a standards-based messaging.
“The cost to upgrade complex and monolithic computer systems is very risky for businesses, since the transitional phase can interrupt critical activities and often employees have to be re-trained on the new system. With a SOA, your company can move away from single-platform, closed systems, to a set of loosely-coupled web services that bring you all the benefits of a monolithic application, without the restraints,” Thomson says.
And, she concludes, in these fiercely competitive times, without effective and agile IT systems your business operations cannot be implemented with the level of control that is required to execute an effective business model. The true value of SOA is not simply aligned with the impact it has on IT; the true value of SOA is the impact that it will have in freeing your business processes.