Most of the discussions surrounding SOA focus on the individual organisation. It appears that people are looking to service-orient their own business before looking outside. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this. However, it seems that focussing internally is the ‘default’ position, rather than a considered decision.
Supply chains are complex things and they are the lifeblood of any business. While there’s always room for improvement most organisations have a pretty good handle on them (if they didn’t they’d be out of business).
A traditional supply chain looks like this (simplified):
But things are changing.
Technology is improving at a rapid rate and we’re living in an increasingly connected world. Consequently, businesses will come under increasing pressure to connect to the outside world. Businesses will be forced to move from the traditional (linear) supply chain to a business ecosystem:
A linear supply chain is relatively easy to manage. You have two touch points with the outside world. The procurement/logistics functions deal with suppliers and the sales/accounts receivable functions deal with customers. Businesses have been doing this for a long time.
Business ecosystems, on the other hand, have a complex array of relationships and each relationship has to be managed. This can’t be done without the help of technology. Notice I didn’t say it can’t be done efficiently. I said it can’t be done at all.
Service oriented architectures are ideally suited to providing the technical foundation for a business ecosystem. The ROI of outward looking projects may far exceed the ROI of any internal project. There’s no rule that says you must ALWAYS start internally.
Something to think about.