Saturday, June 25, 2005

Business-Oriented Architecture

Hal Pierson writes: "if I had to guess what a service oriented architecture will eventually look like, I would guess that it would reflect the business architecture".

Here is the blurb for my 2001 book on the Component-Based Business.
New businesses can apparently be wired together from existing pieces at astonishing speed. A large grocery chain plugs in some extra "components" and becomes a bank, almost overnight. What are the rules of this game, and are there any pitfalls? And what are the implications for IT?

There is currently an explosion of new businesses - not just small start-ups but substantial launches. Many well-known brand names are cut-and-pasted onto new products and services. And not just e-versions of existing businesses either, although that's certainly part of the story. A grocery store opens a bank or insurance company. An insurance company opens a hospital or car breakdown service. Suddenly, and without warning, there's a major new player in the marketplace.

Is this new? No, of course not. But what is new is the way it's done, and the speed. Thanks to the plug-and-play approach, a new business can be rapidly assembled as a loosely coupled set of partnerships and services, with a complex business process spanning many organizations. These business structures (and the software and services that support them) evolve in complex ways, beyond the control of any single player. Even a substantial company can now be viewed as a component of a much larger system, rather than as a self-contained business operation, and this has huge implications for planning and managing at all levels.

In this book, we explore these new business opportunities in terms of components, relationships between components, and the assembled systems. We demonstrate techniques for planning and managing evolutionary change, and we identify strategies for business survival and success.

The issues addressed in my book are now becoming mainstream as the technological agenda of service-oriented architecture (SOA) starts to converge with the strategic agenda of the service-based business (SBB). This implies an approach to business strategy that involves dynamically managing the geometry of the business. (To achieve a fully adaptive enterprise we typically need to implement a variable geometry.) We can find elements of this thinking in some of the methodologies coming out of IBM and Microsoft, although from what I've seen so far I don't think any of these methodologies go far enough.

Hal calls this Business Oriented Architecture. If anything, I'd prefer to call it Architecture-Oriented Business. As Hal indicates, this calls for architectural thinking at the business level, which need to be aligned with architectural thinking at the information/software level.

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