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SOA Manufactures Success for the Supply Chain

It's like committing to a lifestyle change

There's no question that Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) will continue to lead the IT and business agenda. After all, an SOA offers a flexible, extensible, and composable approach to reusing and extending existing applications and services, as well as constructing new ones.

 There's no question that Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) will continue to lead the IT and business agenda. After all, an SOA offers a flexible, extensible, and composable approach to reusing and extending existing applications and services, as well as constructing new ones.

To encourage business growth while still keeping costs in check, many organizations in all industries are relying on an SOA as a way to increase the flexibility and reuse of their exiting IT assets.

Of course, with any new technology, there tends to be a lot of buzz - some factual, some not so well founded - surrounding the opportunities presented by an SOA. Analysts have predicted, pundits have professed, professors have lectured, and companies have scurried to sell what they had as SOA products - often missing the point that SOA isn't a product. It's about bridging the gap between business and IT through a set of business-aligned IT services using a set of design principles, patterns, and techniques.

When you view your SOA as a strategic architecture, one that will enable you to align your technology more closely with the needs of the business, you'll gain greater business flexibility and cost savings. In fact, a recent study by Aberdeen found that the world's largest companies might save up to $53 billion in information technology spending over the next five years by implementing an SOA.

While many may equate SOA deployments with the traditional early adopter markets such as financial services and insurance, there's a strong movement among manufacturers to tap into the power of Service Oriented Architectures.

In fact, 21% of manufacturing companies have already begun to deploy or develop SOA software while another 46% said they plan to implement or evaluate SOA software over the next 24 months, according to a recent AMR Research survey.

For those manufacturers evaluating, mapping, or implementing an SOA, it's important to be aware that the architectural style defining an SOA is that it describes a set of patterns and guidelines for creating loosely coupled, business aligned services that provide unprecedented flexibility in responsiveness to new business threats and opportunities.

Coming to Terms with What Exactly an SOA Is
As you know, an SOA is an enterprise-scale IT architecture for linking resources on-demand. In an SOA, resources are made available to participants in a value net, enterprise, or line-of-business (typically spanning multiple applications in an enterprise or across multiple enterprises). While SOA discussions abound in every organization at nearly every level, the conversations usually center on the following questions, "How much?", "How long will it take?", "When can I start to see the results?", and most importantly, "Do I really need an SOA?"

These are all valid questions. Remember, though, that the decision to implement an SOA shouldn't be taken lightly. It's similar to committing to a lifestyle change because the IT governance to which your development and operational teams adhere to will be quite different.

Still, an SOA can prove to be the most effective way to align IT more closely with the needs of your business.

And though the intricacies of each SOA deployment will be unique to each organization, there's a proven path to success that relies on four fundamental aspects: model, assemble, deploy, and manage. When manufacturers follow this path, their end results have proven to be far greater than if they hadn't leveraged the methodology.

Top 10 Benefits of an SOA for a Manufacturer
While SOA continues to dominate the spotlight of most organizations, it's important to note that of any industry, manufacturing is one of the ripest for SOA adoption and acceleration based on the following 10 factors.

  1. Leverages existing investments in ERP
  2. Streamlines the supply chain
  3. Improves customer service
  4. Aligns IT with your business goals
  5. Offers greater visibility into products
  6. Consolidated and consistent views of information through one consolidated view; manufacturers, partners, and customers alike can better manage inventory costs, reduce duplicate orders, and curb shipment delays.
  7. Maximizes inventory
  8. Eliminates additional IT work
  9. Helps adhere to regulatory compliance
  10. Cost savings
Business has gotten increasingly complex over the last couple of decades. Factors such as mergers, regulations, global competition, outsourcing, and partnering have shifted the way that business is conducted. Yet companies can be hampered in their ability to keep pace due to outdated IT systems that don't maximize their investments, align with their business goals, or extend and build their community of business partners and customers. This is where an SOA can prove most valuable.

SOAs can solve immediate business problems while simultaneously laying the groundwork for flexible IT that's capable of adapting quickly to changing business conditions. Backed by robust standards, technologies and best practices, SOA will let manufacturers reap tremendous results with a tangible ROI on their IT investments.

More Stories By Sandy Carter

Sandy Carter, vice president in charge of IBM's SOA and WebSphere strategy is a graduate of Duke University with a B.S. in Computer Science and Math and an M.B.A from Harvard University. Her professional associations include Member and Best Speaker Award, the Marketing Focus Advisory Council; Board Member of the Grace Hopper Industry Advisory Committee; and membership in Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Inner Circle.

She recently won an Award from AIT United Nations for helping developing countries, is an active member of the Women in Technology Group, and the Lead IBM Partnership Executive at Duke University.

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