The most interesting path in Forrester's six path SOA framework (see previous post) is the one that leads to "core business flexibility."
As analyst Randy Heffner explains, this path "identifies places where business change is slowed by application delivery schedules and restructures processes, message flows, data structures and application integration paths to enable faster application change. Service orientation is the foundation of this transformation."
While the other five paths to SOA create "important business flexibility by creating a collection of service interfaces that can be invoked in many ways from many sources," the core business flexibility path "takes flexibility a step further by building greater flexibility into the services themselves."
Take Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals Group. It had separate applications for expenses, invoices and project accounting. However, SOA enabled it to unify approval processes with a common user interface and common service interfaces across multiple apps. "Managers now can process multiple types of approvals in one one place," writes Heffner. "[Pfizer] can specify approval policies more naturally in a declarative way, and changes in policy do not require changes to application code."
Nevertheless, Heffner points out there are "no options on the horizon for a clean, integrated and complete SOA platform for core business flexibility. Instead, you will need to integrate multiple infrastructure elements."
The business justification? "Because the core business flexibility path represents a strategic level of investment in the future of the business, any major implementation requires strategic vision and execution-level commitment," he writes. "On the other hand, you may pursue targeted flexibility for a limited scope of business activity. By limiting your intial scope, it may be easier to reduce implementation risk, focusing on specific business improvements that can provide concrete justification for smaller-scale investments. Success at this level may be promising enough that the business is willing to take a measured risk in a larger-scale investment in the potential for future flexibility."