SOA and Information Ecosystems
A few months ago I published in this blog an entry where we talked about Information Ecosystems as the simile of an organization that theoretically reached the state of full SOA maturity. Shortly afterwards I was passing through the specification of the basics of a SOA reference architecture published by the OASIS consortium in December 2012.
In this document, they present the concept of SOA Ecosystem.
You can consult it in the links of interest section of this blog, and I recommend that you read it because it is one of the most complete and focused documents I have seen since SOA crossed my path.
Since I published that entry, I’ve been thinking about Information Ecosystems, because after that first sketch where I associated this concept with a theoretical state of full maturity SOA in an organization, my day to day professional has put me in situations, meetings, problems, presentations and reports where the concept of Information Ecosystem fit perfectly.
Now that we have finished with the series devoted to SOA principles, we are returning here to Information Ecosystems and their relationship with the SOA strategy.
Shortly after that article, my approach evolved into a much more global idea about Information Ecosystems: all organizations and companies are Information Ecosystems.
Beyond word play between systems and ecosystems, and regardless of their maturity, and even if they have not ever heard of SOA, really a business organization can be seen today and fully understood as an Ecosystem.
The business, people in their different roles and profiles, infrastructure, communications, information systems, etc, etc, form a live “system of systems”, in which events of all kinds happen. These events affect one or another part of the ecosystem, triggering processes, actions, events, etc. throughout the organization.
And since the main asset of an organization today is information, the term Information Ecosystem fits like a glove to describe what organizations and companies are today from the point of view of ICT.
Understanding and assimilating an organization as an Information Ecosystem is a huge leap forward in order to understand and assimilate the need and benefits of an SOA strategy.
I meet daily with many ICT professionals who are focused on the development and maintenance of their information system. It is logical, and it is what most ICT professionals occupy today, both in the client organizations and in the companies that provide ICT services.
However, few professionals seem to attach sufficient importance to the fact that the information that these information systems collect, process and store, forms part of a much larger whole, of a larger process, which links different systems, different functional areas of the business, beyond the scope of its own system.
In an increasingly interconnected world, where personal mobile devices are increasingly powerful, where the interaction between people and systems is increasing, and where more and more everyday events are becoming events of interest to ICTs , the focus shifts to give prominence to the way in which different information systems communicate, how all those events of interest to each business are detected, managed, analyzed and monitored.
The ICT scenario is changing. A change that has not yet ended and that will only become more acute in the coming decades. The Internet of Things is a good proof of it.
The zoom has been opened a lot, and will open more and more. It is no longer enough to have great information systems, with the best technologies, the best user experiences, etc., etc. Companies will be more competitive as soon as they adapt to the new needs that arise in their markets, the more they tighten their “time to market”.
Our ICT strategy based on BPM, EDA and SOA, on an architectural pattern based on the use of ESB, under the coordination and management of a strong ICT Governance, are a suitable response by the industry to the challenge of Information Ecosystems.
To manage an Information Ecosystem is essential to have a global vision of the business.
However, no one has that complete vision, so it is necessary to add and coordinate different visions to complete the global vision.
It is imperative to identify these sources of knowledge (the SME, or “Subject Matter Experts”).
Once this knowledge has been modeled and analyzed (with BPM), the business services to be included in the SOA Services Catalog can be extracted. Only then, the projects of the different business areas that are interested in the identified events can be defined and coordinated so that they can use those services. Sometimes they will do so as providers of the events, triggering them, and sometimes as consumers of the services, as subscribers in the ESB.
All this represents a huge challenge that can only be achieved through strong Governance, where ICT management profiles are involved and aligned, and where the regulations and the Services Catalog is published and accessible by all stakeholders.
Although the development of each information system remains a central issue, it would be highly desirable for the professionals involved in it to be clear that what they are developing is a piece in a larger gear, one more actor, in an entire ecosystem that should work In an optimal way.
For this, from the minute zero they must take into account how the system will fit into that ecosystem. This involves knowing what other stakeholders to relate to, how it will be autonomous, and how it will ensure that information is where it should be in the entire Information Ecosystem.
In this way, for the functional expert, this information system will bring some improvements, but for the organization it will contribute much more, improving its efficiency and global productivity: the effectiveness of the entire Information Ecosystem.