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SOA development is path to renewal for growing Brazilian bank

At Itau Unibanco, email- and paper-based development team communications have given way to a new approach to development, based around a repository of software models and services.

Over several years, Itau Unibanco has been a major player in world banking. At the same time, full-throttle growth has required the Brazil-based bank to change the way it applies technology to its business problems.

The company's IT department has come to number over 6,000 strong and has had to create new development processes and run-time architectures. The requirements analysis, modeling and business logic creation work of numerous business analysts needed to be better systematized. That has meant use of SOA.

At Itau Unibanco, email- and paper-based development team communications have now given way to a SOA program established around an IBM Rational Asset Manager repository, according to Paulo Renato Licciardi, IT Assets Administrator, Itau Unibanco. The bank's  IT team has re-architected systems and achieved new levels of re-use – not without some commotion as it learned and implemented its new development processes.

''We are very concerned about separation of concerns," Licciardi told an audience at IBM Rational's Innovate 2011 event in Orlando, Fla. That concern, often stated in the writings of SOA expert and author Thomas Erl, was a guiding light for Licciardi's team, as it created an integration layer to better support the work of different business analysts creating different models for different bank applications, which are now more likely described as ''services capabilities.''

In Licciardi's new setup, business analysts' models are reviewed by a SOA governance team that looks at issues of IT, data and enterprise architecture. These then go to channel developers and business analysts for further work.

Licciardi estimates that 13,000 hours of development time has been saved through the asset reuse availed by this method. He cautions, however, that all this required many changes in development processes. The asset management tool was very helpful, he suggests, while adding that ''the tool is not magic.''

Tips from Licciardi's SOA experience include admonitions to:

*Understand work habits - Up front you should think about how the SOA governance team and what they are going to do as they are using the asset management repository.

*Make room for training - People should be prepared for new roles and responsibilities. Business analysts' ways of doing things, particularly, are in for a renewal. That means training is a part of the program.

*Consider timing – Ask yourself 'When is the correct moment to update the repository?' There may be extra effort that must go into updating the asset management repository. But this can imply a significant increase in application development time.

Looking toward the future, said Licciardi, the team is thinking about wedding ALM software to some kind of automation. That would help to ensure more application development time can be devoted to core development task. To date, he said, the bank's team has created about 3000 service capabilities.

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