Tail wags the dog: is the business learning to become service oriented?

Is 'service thinking' seeping into the business side?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

There are many instances when the business side of the house picked up on tech initiatives to call their own. "Re-engineering" originally was part of the tech world, for example, until it was picked up as a tool for business reorgs. "Pinging" was a way for one machine to sense the presence of another, until it became a form of social contact.

We've been quite consumed with picking apart applications and packaging them up as services for consumption by other parts of the business. But it's time to step back and take a look at the business as a whole -- that is, entire businesses themselves need to be "service oriented," much along the lines of our applications and systems becoming "service oriented."

You may say, 'well, I just was on the phone for the past two hours wrangling with my telecom provider over some stupid charges, so that doesn't seem very service oriented to me.' But nevertheless, SOA-style thinking is reshaping management -- the tail is wagging the dog -- and there's more of an emphasis on breaking processes and functions down into manageable and transferable chunks. I've called it the "Loosely Coupled Business."

Deloitte has other names for it, and several principles have been documenting the rise of service-oriented thinking within organizations in recent years. In fact, Bill Briggs and Doug Shoupp published an article last July titled "Service Thinking Delivers SOA Business Success," which talks about this new paradigm.

More insights are now available on the Deloitte Website about the rise of services thinking as a marker of success in today's management. Here's how the evolution is unfolding, as Shoupp describes it:

"SOA was a reaction to business' demand for their technology environments to respond and integrate faster, as well as be more flexible in meeting business requirements and market demands," said Shoupp. "However, SOA lacked the ability to address and link to business optimization. Today, business design and optimization is being driven using the same principles for improving technology flexibility and integration."

Shoupp adds that the rise of services thinking represents a shift from business process reengineering, which has dominated management thinking over the past two decades. The emphasis is on "services design, service modularity and service granularity linked directly with technology and organizational delivery components. Chunks instead of streams, with clear and solid hand-offs that deliver the control and flexibility that business needs today."

The problem with SOA, they say, is that it has become too closely associated with IT. It needs to seen for what it is -- a bona fide business philosophy. "Services Thinking is a business strategy with an emphasis on technology -not the other way around," says Briggs.

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