Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Financial Catastrophe

This might be a bad time to say this, but I have never been very enthusiastic about the opportunities for SOA and CEP in the finance sector. I've not seen much evidence that banks and insurance companies are interested in using SOA and CEP to deliver genuine improvements to customer service and business effectiveness. The published case studies of SOA in the finance sector are mostly pretty dull stuff - consolidation and cost-saving, compliance and risk management, and accelerating/amplifying financial risk-taking.

It would be easy for someone to look at these case studies and think that's all SOA is - just some back-room cost-savings with no visible impact on the business.

Under current economic conditions, banks may be even more desperate to save money, and there will be further waves of merger and acquisition. (See David Sprott's recent post M&A or Business as Usual.) Does this mean they will continue to invest in technologies that help them save and integrate? Those SOA vendors who have allowed themselves to become heavily dependent on the finance sector will now be hoping that this dependence is reciprocated, and that the banks can't survive without SOA.

But it is in other industry sectors, as well as in the public sector, that the more authentic benefits from SOA are to be found. The reason I'm still enthusiastic about SOA is because I still believe in its potential to support the service-based business in engaging with asymmetric demand. If you want to find people who understand this potential, forget about the finance sector, talk to the people in government planning departments, in healthcare strategy, in telecoms and media, in aerospace and defence. Real people doing real jobs.


Hans said...

So why would SOA be a success in some other industry but not in financial services? I have no opinion on this, just trying to understand where you are coming from.

What are the differences that make this likely? And what are the case studies that demonstrate it?

Richard Veryard said...

I think one important factor is the complexity of interoperability.

In my post on Theory and Practice (August 2005), I suggested the following rough categorization.

Simple interoperability
* Financial Services
* Retail
* SupplyChain Logistics (Basic)
* Travel

Moderate Interoperability
* Automotive
* eGovernment
* SupplyChain Logistics (Advanced)
* Telecoms

Complex Interoperability
* Aerospace & Defence
* Consumer Electronics
* Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

I don't think the simple areas are exploiting the real power of SOA concepts, and I still think the more interesting opportunities are likely to be in the more complex space. I am certainly aware of greater SOA vision in these sectors, although not always yet matched by ability to execute.