Ten examples of SOA at work, circa 2009 (Part 2)

SOA helps companies pull through a tough economy, increase mobility, and defend the homeland
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

While many debated the "deadness" of SOA over the past year, there were plenty of organizations that were hard at work making their service oriented architecture work. SOA played a huge role in helping companies pull through the rough-and-tumble economy that started in the second half of last year. We especially saw a lot of interest by the government and military in SOA. Here are more some of this year’s leading examples of SOA at work (the second five of ten shining examples), as documented here at this blogsite, as well as my SOA in Action site over at ebizQ.

Check out my previous post for five more implementation stories.

SOA helps companies pull through a tough economy, increase mobility, and defend the homeland

To get through the economic chokehold of 2008-09: Thanks to transparency and visibility within their supply chains -- partly due to service orientation -- some companies were able to throttle back operations and expenses at just the right time as the economy slumped. For example, Plantronics, the headset maker, was hit by a 40% drop in revenues in the tumultuous first quarter. The company had just completed a major supply chain management system upgrade, however, which helped  provide near real-time ability to forecast demand. In addition, supply chain partners were not caught with overstocks, either, since they also had full visibility of Plantronics' demand.

To reduce sales cycle times. Clayton Homes, a homebuilder at what was the worst time in history to be a homebuilder, employed SOA to dramatically tighten up its operations and operate at a quantum order of greater efficiency. For example, paperwork was automated out of its sales process. Clayton Homes' SOA team identified the various manual or redundant processes that were slowing the works, and built a "future-state model" that development would focus on and against which they could run simulations, to determine savings and ROI opportunities. As a result of the simulations, using actual employee labor costs from its sales order processing team, the company was able to cut total cycle time by 42%.

To enhance mobile workforces. Coca-Cola Enterprises embarked on an SOA-cloud journey, which began with the service-enablement of merchandisers through mobile technologies. The company was able to transition its 11,000 merchandisers -- who work out in the field, visiting stores -- to service-oriented mobile links with operations, saving  more than $3 million a year in travel costs and phone charges.

To keep 325,000 scientists on the road.The Centers for Disease Control employed SOA to integrate its own travel management system with the cross-agency E-Gov Travel service. The agency, which supports the work of up to 325,000 scientists and researchers, needed to integrate E-Gov Travel with it's own Agency Enterprise Business System (AEBS), the system of record for all accounting and disbursing transactions processed within the agency. Prior to E-Gov Travel being put into place, the travelers' interface to the system is via an eVoucher Web application, which helped reduce the time, resources and effort required to train and maintain travelers in the use of E-Gov Travel Services. The agency's travel planners use E-Gov Travel Services to plan a trip, book a ticket, or submit vouchers to reimburse expenses. The catch was that with the cross-agency E-Gov Travel service in place, the agency's  eVoucher system no longer had access to the travel data. "This problem made SOA attractive, because SOA enabled eVoucher access to E-Gov Travel Services data without changing existing user interfaces. In addition, there is patient travel involved in the agency's scientific and medical research.

To guard our shores. The movement of any ship headed toward US waters is tracked by an SOA-aware service running on the US Coast Guard’s systems, and SOA services are being employed to provide data to an international registry of maritime activity?  There is also an SOA service keeping track of the all the spare parts, equipment, and other assets the Coast Guard maintains. The Coast Guard already has close to 25 services that are either already or about to go into production as part of its growing SOA initiative – and more are planned. The Coast Guard – part of the US Department of Homeland Security – started looking at SOA in early 2007, as a way to address growing requirements to be able to share information not only across its own various units, but with federal, local and international agencies concerned with keeping an eye on vessels entering and leaving US shores. Prior to its SOA implementation, the Coast Guard relied on slower and more manual methods of data sharing with its port partners -- such as hard-copy files or phone calls.

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