Small SOA projects can show immediate ROI

Many companies that have achieved early success with service-oriented architectures (SOA) focused first on small, incremental projects that show immediate returns to the business.

At the same time, some companies are struggling to gain a return on investment from large SOA projects. That has prompted several vendors, including Microsoft, IBM and Mercury Interactive, to step up efforts to add tools and services that can mitigate the risk of SOA development.

The IT operations group at Munich-based Siemens AG focused its initial SOA project first on automating and streamlining the processes for fulfilling internal requests to IT for new equipment, passwords and the like, said Thomas Buse, section manager of concepts and processes.

Once users from various departments started using that system for new workers, they asked IT to similarly automate and improve the processes in their departments, he said.

" focused on those processes and activities, which appear hundreds and thousands of times per day," Buse said. By reusing existing services to create new ones, he said, "we can really save money."

By taking advantage of the SOA to reuse common corporate services, Siemens has cut the time required to implement new processes by 83 percent, said Buse. Now the company releases four to eight new business processes to run on its SOA every six to 12 weeks.

He explained the project and its benefits last week to attendees at the Microsoft SOA and Business Process Conference in Washington.

John deVadoss, Microsoft's director of architecture strategy, said an incremental approach can help alleviate some of the SOA ROI backlash he's hearing from some Microsoft customers working on very large projects.

Noting that an SOA is "fundamentally about aligning with the business," deVadoss said that "the challenge with the big-bang approach is tends to diverge from the business very rapidly. There is a lot of risk that gets built up."

Tracy LeGrand, chief architect and vice president of technology, strategy and architecture at Ameriprise Financial in Minneapolis, last week described SOA as a "journey that has incremental benefits."

LeGrand outlined his firm's SOA efforts during an IBM press briefing in which the vendor announced four new products, 23 product enhancements and 11 new services, all SOA-related.

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