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SOA growth reveals benefits and lessons

Service-oriented architecture is a way of including roles (customers, suppliers, engineers, etc.) and viewing everything as a service.

Service-oriented architecture is a way of including roles (customers, suppliers, engineers, etc.) and viewing everything as a service. Generally, we recognize services that are provided by people, machines and both. SOA is the most important development in the last ten years and is 1) Business-oriented - "describe what, not how" and 2) Message-oriented - "just ask and the service is given."

The concept of a service provided by people and machines forces both business and IT into alignment and to embrace the concept of a service. An excellent Business process management (BPM) practice is absolutely necessary to implement successful SOA projects.

Recently, I was fortunate to review many case studies focused on best practices in BPM. They are submitted yearly for judging from all around the world. The submissions represent public and private enterprises including finance, manufacturing, healthcare, water management, etc. The message contained in these studies, in my view, demonstrates that these practitioners are reaching a repeatable maturity level and the knowledge shared proved invaluable to me as a practice leader in the area who stands up around six clients a year in the BPM/SOA and TOGAF arena. I am dedicating this discussion to the benefits, best practices and pitfalls revealed in the studies. 

What are the BPM/SOA benefits, best practices and pitfalls revealed by the people who have done it? I needed to boil down hundreds of observations and here they are:


  1. Increased business flexibility
  2. Very dramatic cost savings by creating business rules services
  3. Improved competitive advantage
  4. Increased revenues
  5. Improved worker productivity
  6. Improved customer service
  7. Reduced training costs
  8. Processing time reductions
  9. Process modeling for SOA-created visibility and accountability

Best practices

  1. Establish a BPM/SOA/EA Center of Excellence (CoE)
  2. Ensure governance in SOA across all projects
  3. Think big - robust, scalable, secured, standards-based
  4. Start small - scale up while accumulating expertise
  5. Move fast - train staff, design and build in iterations
  6. Build out enterprise SOA services aligned with stakeholders strategic plan
  7. Focus on roles that require services that are delivered by a business process
  8. Develop and adhere to reference architectures, frameworks and open standards up front
  9. Focus on key dysfunctional process areas
  10. Knowledge of legacy environment
  11. Performance test your services and workflows


  1. Don’t "pave the cow paths" and create silo SOA
  2. Don’t underestimate SOA service work and modeling
  3. Don't forget to train managers in Agile management
  4. Don't lead with technology, ensure business and IT partnership
  5. Don't turn off legacy systems without learning contained business logic
  6. Don’t underestimate challenge of culture change


I observed that these clients are moving from a waterfall method to more agile approaches. Investments in modernizing BPM, SOA and enterprise architecture (EA) are allowing the early majority market to reap rewards. If your organization doesn't have a pilot BPM/SOA/EA initiative then your corporation may be at risk, much like corporations that did not catch the Internet wave and quietly disappeared.


To read all the case studies go to Annual BPM Excellence Awards. They are being published in May 2012. Last year's studies were published in Delivering BPM Excellence.


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