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Is a business architecture reference model key to SOA projects?

Designing SOA to work with business initiatives is a challenge facing SOA projects. Business architecture reference models help, says Ramsay Millar.

Is a business architecture reference model key to success with SOA projects?

Designing an enterprise's SOA to work with business initiatives is a significant challenge facing SOA projects. In addition to Web services and SOA implementations, organizations must consider business intelligence from business processes. SOA solutions must deliver business flexibility for rapidly changing processes, businesses and data rules in a coordinated manner, for both people and machines. For that, business architects say that business architecture reference models are critical.

Recently, I asked a group of business architects whether a business architecture reference model is key to SOA projects … [They] answered emphatically, "Yes."

Ramsay Millar, practice lead, Integrate IT LLC

Managing business and IT architecture models are strategic business capabilities -- and they need to be aligned to meet strategic outcomes. Communicating models and working together are key to realizing the dreams of SOA flexibility, cost savings and profits.

A business model is made better when attention is paid to operational excellence. How does one achieve operational excellence? Through service quality. The service quality movement was led by Edward Deming at Toyota, proven in the U.S. by Jack Welch at GE in manufacturing and demonstrated in the services industry. But we must also explore frameworks for describing semantic business vocabulary models. The OMG Business Motivation Model (BMM) and TOGAF Business Architecture are a good beginning.

The service quality movement in SOA projects needs to resonate with service quality practices. We need to describe the implied semantic business model using a holistic -- or systems thinking -- approach when designing business solutions (collaborations between people and machines) to avoid continuing SOA project failures.

Recently, I asked a group of business architects whether a business architecture reference model is key to SOA projects. I posted this question on a number of LinkedIn forums, including The Business Architecture Community, The Open Group, TOGAF for Architecture and Gartner Enterprise Architecture (Xchange). Business architects answered emphatically, "Yes." Here are summaries of their responses:

  • Business architecture reference models provide a holistic view first, to ensure that the value created through the SOA project fits into the big picture and aligns with the strategy of business operations and initiatives.
  • A business reference architecture model is key for any type of project -- reference architecture can be used to support SOA projects as well. All SOA solution blueprints were created based on the reference architecture and used through the solution architecture review (governance) process and adjusted throughout the SDLC.
  • Per the Open Group, the enterprise architecture (under which the business architecture is a key pillar) addresses the overall construction of the enterprise.
  • The TOGAF business architecture meta-model needs to evolve and measure the impacts of strategic changes (driver, goal, objective). Business capabilities also need to be structured and related to service-level agreements (SLAs). At the implementation level, we need to see direct linkage from business capabilities and SLAs that are orchestrated by business processes (people and machines).

I would suggest recent research by Birol Berkem on integrating business architecture frameworks as further reading on this topic.

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This was first published in February 2013

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