BEA exec: Get business users involved in app development

SOA will cross the chasm of enterprise acceptance when business users can start building their own applications
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Okay, let's review our checklist of who needs to be educated or enlightened about SOA. Unfortunately, it looks like everyone up and down the value chain, including IT:

The final item is based on recent research out of Saugatuck Research, which concluded that the benefits of SOA are still technical in nature, rather than business-focused

The prognosis is that SOA remains an IT activity, and the rest of the organization remains fairly in the dark about SOA. A new interview with BEA's Bruce Graham also says as much, that most SOA initiatives are coming out of IT departments, not the business side. (Thanks to SOA Digest for surfacing this report.) The shift will come, he says, when SOA lets more non-technical types to actually build applications to map to business processes.

Business folks talk processes, IT folks talk services. Graham acknowledges that "I think what we are seeing is that SOA as a term and services themselves as a discussion point are still very much an IT language. But that's not necessarily a bad thing." Business users want to frame the discussion in terms of business processes, he added.

He holds out a ray of hope, though, noting that this semantics gap between IT and businesspeople may be closing a bit, "when business processes resolve to real transactions on the back-end," meaning "when IT operations can put in services designed for business processes by less technical business analysts and services specialists."

There's quite a bit of debate around this last point, whether non-techie users will eventually be able to assemble combinations of services without the assist of the IT department. Graham posits that that day is coming, but carefully defines the assembler-users as "less technical," versus the great masses of users that can't program their way out of paper bags.

"We now have one layer for the business analysts around composite applications, and then connection into back-end transactions. Less technical analysts can do real programming but using composite-type technology."

Okay, fair enough. It's a plain fact that business users are much more computer savvy than their predecessors of only a decade ago. Plus, IT professionals are getting more business savvy. The new generation entering the workforce -- who have  been MySpacing and IMing most of their lives -- may be quite comfortable with assembling the front ends to enterprise applications.

However, when you look at the more accessible collaboration space today, how many non-technical types are currently engaging in the Web 2.0 mashups, or are contributing to such sites as Wikipedia? Few, very few. So how many can be expected to venture forth with tools, when available, to assemble, Visio style, new applications that map to business processes? 

Readers, do you think that the day will come when business users will be able to assemble their applications without IT intervention? Or is this some kind of crazy Utopian scheme?

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