With the advent of the enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA) the importance of enterprise architects within companies is increasing. Furthermore, for the first time, these architects have the opportunity to effectively link the worlds of business and IT closer that they have been to do until now. (see SAP INFO print 144, article from Paul Kurchina: “Enterprise Architects: key enablers”)
Leading the enterprise architecture journey
As the architects are responsible for leading the enterprise architecture journey they are involved in all respective issues and platform-related decisions for the chosen architecture, for example an enterprise SOA. An international survey about the „Future Role of an Enterprise Architect“ – conducted a few months ago by SAP, the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) Enterprise Architecture Community, and the University of Applied Sciences Karlsruhe – illustrates the influence of enterprise architects in platform decisions. 63 percent of the survey’s participants say that enterprise architects participate in almost all platform decisions. 35 percent opine that these architects work as trusted advisors that consult and support the CIO in platform-specific questions, such as minimizing costs, meeting line-of-business heads’ needs as well as accelerating change and innovation. Only two percent think that enterprise architects cannot contribute substantially in any decisions regarding platforms.
Including strategy in any platform planning
The increased influence of enterprise architects in strategic platform decisions is not surprising. A business process platform becomes a critical component of the enterprise architecture because it provides a standardized environment for enterprise services. These services encapsulate enterprise functionality and expose it reusable. They can also be combined with other services to meet new requirements. The platform enables companies to use these services in order to design, compose, and manage service-enabled applications. It allows them to tap the potential of their enterprise SOA approach by responding quickly to change and driving business process innovation.
Based on the concept of enterprise SOA SAP’s business process platform based on SAP NetWeaver includes a central container – the enterprise services repository – that holds descriptions and metadata about the services available across the company’s entire service landscape.
Three channels of getting started
Customers can get started easily with enterprise SOA. First, the Enterprise Services Workplace site within the SAP Developer Network provides a place to browse through available enterprise services from SAP. Depending on the granularity of the information demand, an enterprise architect can search for services in a variety of ways: alphabetically, or by general business context, industry, or solution map. For instance, they can choose a business process from a solution map and then drill down to its functional details until assigned enterprise services appear. In addition the architects are able to tap the potential of enterprise SOA by directly accessing the backend systems of the Enterprise Services Workplace – these systems represent a business process platform comprising SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver. The backend allows them to test-drive enterprise services and to see service-enabled processes in action.
Second, the SAP Discovery System for enterprise SOA is a complete turnkey offering for learning and exploration. It is a stand-alone, preconfigured, preinstalled system running on SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver. SAP Discovery System for enterprise SOA is a complete, fully documented system with standard SAP software components for developing and delivering service-based applications, including all the interfaces, functionality, data, and guidance necessary to run a complete, end-to-end business scenario.
Third, on premise with SAP Business Suite: enterprise services are delivered with enhancement packages, for example for SAP ERP 2005. The packages enable rapid deployment of selective new functionality in a way that minimizes disruption on core production systems. Enhancement packages are important to improve the quality of the enterprise SOA in a continuous way.
SAP’s approach to Enterprise service-oriented Architecture with SAP NetWeaver
Supporting decision-making for IT and business
Apart from any help to get started with an enterprise architecture, the study also revealed that decision-making support is one of the most important characteristic of a desired, future-state enterprise architecture. Decision-making support reaches 91 of 100 points. But what does decision-making support mean with reference to enterprise SOA and the platform strategies of enterprise architects?
From an IT perspective, the chosen architecture should help to identify the right IT solutions aligned to the IT strategy. The enterprise architecture should even work as a compass that shows the strategic direction of a company. Determining this strategic direction in the form of a architectural approach, for example enterprise SOA, helps to identify the initiatives necessary to implement the change. Therefore, enterprise architects can consult an enterprise SOA adoption program that supports decision-making on exactly this way. It provides a structured and streamlined adoption process aligned with a proven methodology and governance.
From a business perspective, a future architecture should create an interoperable environment that support empowered employees, for example line-of-business heads, who are at the front lines of business. So, business people would be able to individually create and optimize their front-end processes without accounting for backend implementation issues. This would basically foster a culture of innovation. In this architecture stage, IT and business units can more quickly implement suggestions of people and reward productivity.
Economic and business conditions demand integrative and innovative connections and relationships between enterprises of different sizes and industries along the value chain. To realize an integrative business environment, enterprise architects will reinforce the usage of technology and industry standards in their architecture. These standards ensure that companies can run cross-industrial business processes efficiently via seamlessly interconnected platforms. Enterprise architects need to recognize and should be aware of trends in the platform market to make the right decisions concerning their target architecture. Platform decisions that are made today, can widely affect the realization of strategic business goals of a company in the future.