Information Ecosystems: the service-oriented business organization
A few entries ago, when we talked about the implementation of the SOA strategy, we barely commented on the maturity model of an organization from the point of view of its adoption of the service-oriented model. In this entry we will not talk about the different maturity levels of an organization. Instead, we will go a little further: we will propose a conceptual model of the service-oriented organization after a complete (theoretical) implementation of an SOA strategy. It is a conceptual vision that seeks to illustrate how SOA can transform organizations in their evolution from a set of interconnected systems to the information ecosystems.
We are all accustomed to the concept of Information System (IS). Every IS is designed to cover a number of needs, usually in the context of a specific functional area (customers, billing, hiring, payment methods, human resources, radiology, appointments, fraud, marketing, logistics, etc).
Within an organization, both in the private sector and in the public sector, the various functional areas that intervene in the production of its final product or service are related to each other through what is known as a value chain. Throughout this blog, we have referred several times to the important advance that an organization can take to guide its map of information systems, to give a real-time response to the flow of business processes that implement that value chain. In this way, the product or service that the organization intends to offer is available or adapted to any new need or strategic initiative much earlier, which is a clear competitive advantage.
When we talk about the systems map of an organization, we think above all about its IS, communications infrastructure, etc. But the service-oriented organization, under an SOA strategy, involves many more components, starting with the professionals themselves, from the responsible in ICT to the ICT providers, through the managers of change management, systems department, quality control, functional managers, and the organization’s own project managers. All of them, in their respective roles, must be “service oriented”.
All these systems related to each other, in turn, form a system, on another level. We talked about this when we saw some analogies with which we illustrated the impact that SOA has on the evolution of ICT in the business environment. From this point of view, we can consider business organization as a whole system, formed by the interaction of a set of IS and other actors.
When that macro-system that the organization is, is oriented to an SOA strategy, it adopts an optimal, proactive, coordinated, orchestrated operation from the business through a well defined set of standard services published in the ESB. Each of the IS that form that organization knows what events to communicate to the ESB, through which services, and what events it needs to receive from the ESB, and through which services. The reception of these events from each service provider, its processing, application of the corresponding business rules, and the communication of such events to service consumers, is carried out in the ESB through the implementation of SOA services . These services, of lower or greater complexity, represent a pattern of processes, tasks, information flow and rules extracted from the analysis of the business processes of the organization.
In this way, each of the IS that participates in this type of scenarios behaves in an encapsulated, self-contained, autonomous way, exchanging information with the organization, producing information based on its own events, and consuming information that others have produced.
Going back to analogies, we could pose the following similarities if we think of a business organization with an implanted SOA strategy, in an ideal state of maturity:
- The set of IS that belong to an organization behaves in a similar way as the different agents that make up an ecosystem.
- Business rules act like the laws of physics and biology, establishing cause and effect relationships that govern all interactions between the different IS of the organization.
- The IS of an organization would be like the living beings of a certain habitat, each designed independently of the rest, performing the functions that correspond to it, and relating to the rest of IS always through the rules of the business, each one in their role of producers (or service providers), and consumers.
- SOA governance would be responsible for maintaining the balance of that ecosystem, establishing how the different systems should be related, what services are provided and consumed by each, under what standards, constantly analyzing the health status of the ecosystem, to adjust what is necessary to maintain the proper balance.
The model we propose presents the service oriented business organization as an Information Ecosystem, whose balance and functioning is given by a decoupled systems map, interconnected by standard services reusable to a central infrastructure (ESB), where the Business Rules and the orchestrations of events that are inherent to the business are implemented. The IS of the organization behave as inhabitants of this Information Ecosystem, producing events and consuming events, exchanging information by standards, and following the policies established from SOA governance.
In the same way that we speak of different ecosystems, at different scales, and of different habitats, it is also possible to speak of different “business habitats”, business scopes, which from a theoretical point of view could be modeled with a standard set of specialized services (events, orchestrations, business rules, and messages) that define that particular ecosystem in a generic way. Thus, we would speak of the “Financial” Information Ecosystem, the “Sanitary” Information Ecosystem, the “Judicial” Information Ecosystem, and so on.
In future entries we will go a little deeper into this idea, perhaps suggesting how these standard models of Information Ecosystems by business scope can be implemented by each particular organization or company.
All this, on the solid foundations provided by an SOA strategy.