Collaboration Under SOA: The Human Aspects

This book chapter from Executing SOA: A Practical Guide for the Service-Oriented Architect shows how Web 2.0 business concepts apply to businesses, especially those enterprises that adhere to the philosophy of SOA.

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These changes happen simultaneously for all three models. Figure 8-2 illustrates this.

8.2.10 Web 2.0 and the Service-Oriented Enterprise

You've already read in this chapter some Web 2.0 business concepts. Now take a look at the following list of principles that should be of interest to businesses, especially those enterprises that adhere to the philosophy of SOA:

  • Self-establishing communities are collaborating around topics of common business interest.

  • User contribution is a norm and requires treating users as coauthors and leveraging their skills.

  • Accumulation of user knowledge is used to make applications smarter the more people use them.

  • Users are enabled to add value by adding meta data (for example, rate, tag, bookmark, comment).

  • Users take control, and contribute to make applications most useful to them.

  • User interface are separated from services to make services more reusable.

  • Fine-grained access to data that supports mashups.

  • The general use of mashups allows combining existing services into new, useful applications and joining information from various sources.

  • Situational applications are developed by line of business users on the spot and help to make businesses more agile.

  • The general use of Ajax allows to enable rich, interactive, highly responsive web UIs.

  • Use of semantic tags and microformats enables dynamic augmentation with contextual menus or information.

This list is not and will never be complete. After all, new ideas are continually being conceived and propagated, and then after having been accepted by the masses of Internet users they are finally turned into business innovations. However, from insight we have gained to the present, we can derive valuable guidelines to build the SOA collaborative environment.

8.3 Building the SOA Collaboration Environment

Characteristics of the Web 2.0 enterprise build primarily on services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability. Due to control over unique, hard to re-create data sources that get richer as more people use them, a kind of "democratic" control mechanism is established, and users are trusted as "co-developers." Therefore, businesses have to harness the collective intelligence of all the employees in the company to reach the business goals more directly, and so that the goals are finely tuned to match customer demands at an unforeseen degree.

To reach the "long tail" as it was described before, means a different way to market, and finally a more sophisticated way to present the company services to the world. As education levels throughout the world rise, the demands become more and more specific. Those services have to match a myriad of individual needs by rather small groups of customers. This trend is irrevocable and businesses have to address those needs, because those enlightened customers know to find what they need and want anywhere in the http://www. This development increases the pressure by competition, and forces enterprises to adequately address the growing "long tail".

Using services via the Internet means, in a transferred sense, to extend one's personal system capabilities. As a user, you have access to application services and data sources that go far beyond traditional client/server implementations. The network itself truly becomes the computer by offering services to run, and even more, lightweight user interfaces, development models, and business models enable flexible use of services fitting the situational needs.

8.3.1 The Situational Application Ecosystem

As mentioned previously, end users of IT systems are taking on the role application programmer by building mashups or using Ajax to create applications for their immediate needs, without the often-tedious process of IT requests, requirements definitions, and following the traditional software lifecycle. The more services become available in an SOA-based IT, the more the composition of enterprise data and business logic processes becomes less a matter of the IT experts. Mash-able content helps to enable end users to do client-side composition for the browser. Those situational applications built by the user from available services for discrete business situations are the key to agile business operations.

This raises a question: Why is a situational application ecosystem important?

Surely, frameworks are only as good as the data and widgets they have access to. Less skill is required to connect components together using widgets that can interact, compose, and display mashed content in new and interesting ways. Further integration "on the glass" is easier for the average user than integration deeper within platforms or applications, and situational software is enabled by mashable data, and widgets has a proven market demand. The marketplace is clearly indicating value, as stated before.

However, there is total incompatibility and lack of interoperability between widget vendors, and most enterprise data is not available in a form easily consumed by existing frameworks. Therefore, there is a clear need for a reliable framework that enables users to assemble applications: the situational applications ecosystem.

Such a framework must include highly intuitive construction methods allowing line of business end users to create their own situational applications, mashups, services, and RSS feeds. As shown in earlier examples in this chapter, such online environments should support both personal and collaborative assembly to satisfy community and personal needs.

Certainly, collections of highly useful "starter" service components ready to easily mash up are welcome, because their availability lowers the threshold for nontechnical users to engage in building their own situational applications. Finally, to become the agile enterprise that one expects from SOA-based organizations, the enterprise must provide easy access to enterprise data sources and APIs.

To set up your company for SOA, you follow the guidelines for governance, introduce a team-based and open development process, and embed all of this in the business transition for the entire organization. When doing so, it is important to include collaborative aspects and to build the ecosystem for situational applications that enable the users to become agile in the intended sense.

8.3.2 User Conditions in the Situational Application Ecosystem

No one solution fits all situations; and in the future, we see the increasing need for more individualized applications that fit a certain business situation. No longer will packaged standard business solutions meet the quickly changing requirements, nor will they become modifiable at high speed. Therefore, the situational application ecosystem has to satisfy several conditions for the user and the technical infrastructure perspective.

For the non-IT end user, the following conditions are regarded as key:

  • User-assembled applications.

  • Intuitive construction methods for line of business (LOB) users are required and must be provided and supported by the IT shop.

    Support both personal and collaborative assembly.

    There should be high-value service components for enterprise mashups (data, feeds, collaboration, and so on) covering the most common functionalities.

  • Global contextual collaboration.

  • There are to be rich collaborations that dynamically adapt to available devices.

    The IT system aggressively manages dynamic collaboration contexts.

    Real-time language translation and other accessibility adaptation are provided and supported by the IT shop.

  • World Wide Widgets.

  • The IT providers in the enterprise are exploiting the emerging post-browser, cross-device interface metaphor.

    Micro-contexts and micro-templates are made available for fine-grained assembly.

8.3.3 Infrastructure Conditions for the Application Ecosystem

From the technology perspective, the following conditions have to be achieved:

  • Provide an enterprise-ready Web 2.0 platform.

  • Drive the architecture of Web 2.0 deep into the enterprise, including the organizational and development aspects described in Chapter 4, "A Methodology for Service Modeling and Design."

    Deliver end-to-end quality of service (QoS) that is demanded by enterprise environments (transactions, security, reliability, availability, and so on) without compromising the simplicity of the REST/Web 2.0 paradigm.

  • Establish a service provisioning for REST components.

  • Create a distributed infrastructure that is capable of hosting and managing millions of transient and situational applications.

    Enable fine-grained, dynamic mediation, caching, acceleration, and discovery from inexact description. This is a challenge for the middleware, the ESB, and related infrastructure services—a semantics support in the repository.

    Enable integration of "browser-based middleware" for end-to-end management of all elements.

  • Care for security, provenance, and governance.

  • Build fine-grained distributed protection and rights management for both data and services.

    Allow "real-time" monitoring of regulatory compliance, including alerts and notifications.

    Enable provenance management in a remix-and-republish environment, matching the reuse promises of SOA.

Detailing all the listed items goes beyond the scope of this book. The items we mentioned and the collective thoughts we conveyed should help you build the ecosystem that is needed to gain the most from situational applications in the enterprise. At the time of this writing, several tools that support this approach are under development or being improved.

Further, we like to point to the IBM developerWorks and IBM alphaWorks sites where the individual solutions are discussed. Research results are presented and available for early users.

8.4 Benefits from SOA to Enterprise Operations

To determine the benefits to the enterprise operation, a look at the stakeholders is advised. The higher-level view lets one state that the market forces are aligning the stakeholders in the following ways:

  • The end users want access to their preferred data and widgets even as they change their framework of choice.

  • The content providers want their content to be available to as many users as possible (that is, on as many platforms as possible), but do not want to be saddled with providing different widgets for each framework.

  • The gadget and framework vendors need content and widgets for their frameworks or middleware products to be viable.

This means for real online services, the markets of all three types of vendors have to come together and find a common ground. There are already widely accepted standards for the technology base, namely Web services.

For Web services standards definitions and ongoing activities, visit the W3C.org.

Now, need is based on this standard definitions for the contents, the processing, and the use of any item offered. Some of those definitions are developed as so-called industry models, dictionaries, or encyclopedias. They contain and define all essential elements of a certain industry. Others define a catalog of common services that can be used in various contexts across industries. Those might be used to link business partners together similar to the APIs for SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) for international money transfers between banks and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

Having such industry standards in place results in advantages for all involved parties, because one can concentrate on the essentials rather than fight for naming something or insisting on certain attributes for an entity used by a service. As always, after awhile, vendors recognize the larger benefits for their platforms that stem from open standards (as opposed to trying to chain all involved parties to proprietary definitions).

8.4.1 Social Networking Effects for the Web 2.0 Enterprise

Another kind of benefit comes from the social networking that Web 2.0 offers. Figure 8-3, the enterprise Web 2.0 spectrum, shows the broad range of the relevant aspects spanning from completely social items on one side of the scale to the rather technical definition of SOA, its underlying technology, on the other end.

08fig01-150.jpg
Figure 8-3: The enterprise Web 2.0 spectrum

From the social end of the scale, there are several benefits that a company can realize. The predominant items, which count for larger organizations, are as follows:

  • Discovery of new relationships in the company

  • Access to knowledge of the organization and beyond

  • Connections to information and subject matter experts far beyond one's current network

  • Shared work by leveraging the connectedness of everything and everyone to work together in new ways

  • Improved quality of one's work via expert peer testing, reviewing, and commenting in community forums

  • Execution of better business decisions (and faster) through access to the right people, information, and new tools to manage tasks and expedite collaboration with others

The larger an organization, the more these advantages apply. The Web 2.0 elements reduce the anonymity of large enterprises. In the past, an employee relied on one LOB to point to the partners within the company to cooperate; Reorganizations, then, required changes to organizational charts to reflect changed conditions. New LOBs, new managers, and new employees in the line needed to be nominated. When Web 2.0 elements are in place and actively used by the workforce, each individual is more powerful. The individual employee can find the best connections, team up for better solutions, and deliver higher satisfaction to the customers.

8.4.2 Business Opportunities from Web 2.0 in a Service-Oriented Enterprise

Introducing an SOA-based organization with required IT services and implementing the described Web 2.0 elements helps the company to gain business opportunities. Summarizing, we can state the introduction of SOA and Web 2.0 in the enterprise:

  • Empowers the LOB.

  • Enables innovation (and thus quick reaction to business situations) at the departmental and individual levels.

    Eliminates (to a large degree), via the guided introduction of mashup and other situational applications, the often-frustrating communication and interpretations of requirements.

    Improves employee morale through empowerment and reduced bureaucracy. Important here is that the guidelines and rules be general purpose. In other words, you define and communicate the constitution of the company adjusted to service-oriented operations with Web 2.0 elements.

  • Generates business fit of IT.

  • Applications are better suited to the LOB needs.

    Short-term business domain needs are satisfied because the user becomes the developer.

    Addresses the long tail of the company's customers (as explained earlier in this chapter).

    Tactical solutions become part of the IT portfolio.

  • Shortens lifecycle and results in better ROI.

  • Less time is spent on development (utilizing reuse—see the earlier chapters, especially Chapter 5).

  • The development process itself becomes less expensive because the IT shop provides a platform, the rules, guidelines, the repository, and the governance instrumentation. The IT shop provides satisfying support for tools to allow end users to build situational applications to their individual needs.

Generally we can state that our experiences from projects at various organizations, including IBM, support the benefits of SOA and Web 2.0 to the individual and the business goals. It fits to the changing world, which is interconnected via the Internet, operating, trading, and dealing globally with employees on every continent. It allows 24 hours operating, developing, and production of the goods demanded by the customers worldwide.

As people discover the advantages of Web 2.0 in their private lives, they call for getting similar power at their fingertips at work. As shown, the advantages exist, and are ready to be exploited. However, there are also challenges to face and obstacles to overcome that derive from the introduction of SOA and Web 2.0 in the enterprise.

8.4.3 Challenges of the Mergence of SOA and Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

The first and most often the most worrying aspect is about controlling the chaos that seems to arise when everybody starts creating his or her own applications from company and external services. With the infrastructure in place, the end users start to build and run their mashups under the radar of the teams who are responsible for the IT in the company. There are no formal budgets assigned because the users create the mashups as part of their work. This means companies have to revise IT plans and business plans to reflect what employees are doing.

As explained earlier, users become co-developers, making the immediate implementation of solutions the objective. The board of IT architects or an equivalent governance institution should find ways to let users learn about architecture, installing watchdogs to gain control and support quality assurance. Certain education should be set up for the mashup-savvy users to ensure the required level of security and avoid malign behaviors. The latter should be cared for by quality assurance of the offered services by the providers, be them internal IT or external.

The tools and means of Web 2.0 invite spontaneous evolution, keeping every application in a perpetual beta state. Again, this is a question of automated quality assurance and inspections for severe violations. What an end user regards as "good enough" certainly will not pass traditional quality assurance, and when delivered by a professional IT shop, it may cause protests. Now the users themselves develop and implement many of their applications, and the service levels lower. Well-defined company standards or reliance on an industry canon can avoid poor quality, which would certainly counteract the expected benefits.

Finally, best practices do not yet exist for the enterprise- or industry-wide use of Web 2.0 elements outside the web communities where those have been developed. This means the involved parties feel left alone. But, in turn, it can fuel the community aspects and the team spirit to overcome it. In this context, pioneers among the employees are the ones taking the lead, connecting within and beyond the company boundaries, and it might become the norm for application development, as it is desired for agile lines of business.

Setting standards, implementing a governance board, and teaching the guidelines, as well installing control mechanisms are there to avoid that integration is pushed to the edge. Over time, we have no longer standard applications control the business processes and the operation flows, but services and RSS feeds take over.

A mix of internal and external services on a global scale will bring multiple development environments and middleware platforms into the game. Preferences of individuals may determine directions rather than a reuse-oriented standard. A trusted board of IT experts, not just knowing the existing systems but well experienced with Web 2.0 and recognized by the community, is needed to keep control of the framework and tools used by the users.

Letting happen uncontrolled developing any kind of mashups may cause severe problems to management of the situational and enterprise applications. So, the hard problems at enterprise IT gets harder (for example, the root cause analysis, error detection, data protection, and patch management). This all is, as you now know, part of SOA governance.

8.5 Conclusion

As shown, there are plenty of opportunities to gain benefits from an SOA in the enterprise. The described elements of Web 2.0 are providing the end user access to services. The loosely coupled nature of the services allows the end user to combine applications to suit immediate needs. A well-organized registry and repository of services is the backbone for a governed operation and supports most efficient application development.

A well-defined and deliberately cared for repository of people lets employees get instantaneous access to each other and allows them to collaborate at solving customer demands in shortest time at highest quality. All the described elements help to create the desired business agility in the company.

However, as shown in this book, there are practical guidelines, lessons learned from first pilots and enterprises that started the journey toward SOA several years ago. All this we collected from our project teams working on real-life solutions, and it should be helpful to every enterprise architect who is responsible for his/her company transition. In the last chapter, we give an outlook on expected technology and business development based on SOA and Web 2.0 as we know it today.

8.6 Links to developerWorks Articles

A.8.1 Stephen Watt. Mashups—The evolution of the SOA, Part 2: Situational applications and the mashup ecosystem. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices/library/ws-soa-mashups2/index.html.

A.8.2 IBM developerWorks, SOA and Web Services zone. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices.

A.8.3 S. E. Slack. Social computing: Maximizing the power of Web 2.0—Learn how to maintain influence and build acceptance for your ideas. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/ar-soccomp/.

A.8.4 Luba Cherbakov, Andy J. F. Bravery, and Aroop Pandya (2007), 23 August 2007, SOA meets situational applications, Part 1: Changing computing in the enterprise, http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices/library/ws-soa-situational1/index.html?S_TACT=105AGX04&S_CMP=ART.

A.8.5 Scott Laningham. developerWorks Interviews: Taking Web 2.0 into the enterprise: What mashups, social collaboration, and enhanced data management mean for the workplace. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/podcast/dwi/cm-int082807txt.html.

A.8.6 Constantine Plotnikov, Artem Papkov, and Jim Smith. Java EE meets Web 2.0—Adopting asynchronous, event-driven architectures to meet the challenges of modern Web applications. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/web/library/wa-aj-web2jee/.

A.8.7 Anirban Dutta. The future of SOA—A service-based delivery model with Web 2.0 capabilities. http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/library/oct06/dutta/.

8.7 References

Bieberstein et al. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Compass: Business Value, Planning, and Enterprise Roadmap, IBM Press, 2005.

Martin van den Berg, Norbert Bieberstein, and Erik van Ommeren. SOA for Profit—A Manager's Guide to Success with Service-Oriented Architecture, IBM & Sogeti, 2007.

Bieberstein et al. "Impact of service-oriented architecture on enterprise systems, organizational structures, and individuals," IBM Systems Journal, 44:4, 2005. http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/444/bieberstein.html.

Peter Weill and Joanne W. Ross. IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT for Superior Results, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004.

Koen Brand and Harry Boonen. IT Governance Based on CobiT 4.0: A Management Guide, Van Haren Publishing, 2007.

Sandy Carter. The New Language of Business: SOA & Web 2.0, IBM Press, 2007.

Bob Glushko and Erik Wilde. Service Science, Management, and Engineering Lecture Series, Course 290-16, lectures at U.C. Berkeley School of Information, Spring 2007. http://rosetta.sims.berkeley.edu:8085/sylvia/s07/view/290-16.complete.

Luba Cherbakov et al. "Impact of service orientation at the business level," IBM Systems Journal, 44:4, 2005. http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/sj/444/cherbakov.html.

Meredith Belbin. Management Teams (2nd Edition), Academic Press, 2003. http://www.belbin.com/.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Now, Discover Your Strengths, Free Press, 2001. http://www.marcusbuckingham.com/.

David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types. (3rd Edition), Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 2001. http://www.keirsey.com.

David M. Keirsey, Richard Milner, and Vince Wood. The Temperament Discovery System, Advisor Team, Inc., 2004. http://www.keirsey.com.

Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi. The 16 Personality Types, Descriptions for Self-Discovery, Telos Publications, 1999.

Tim O'Reilly. What Is Web 2.0? 2005. http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html.

IBM, The CEO Report 2007.

Kempton Lam and Nisan Gabbay. iStockphoto Case Study: How to evolve from a free community site to successful business, 2006. http://www.startup-review.com/blog/istockphoto-case-study-how-to-evolve-from-a-free-community-site-to-successful-business.php.

Jesse James Garrett. Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications, AdaptivePath Ideas, 2005. http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000385.php.

Roy Thomas Fielding. Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures, Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at University of California, Irvine, 2000. http://www.ics.uci.edu/~fielding/pubs/dissertation/top.htm.

RSS Advisory Board, RSS 2.0 Specification, 2007. http://www.rssboard.org/rss-specification.

Chris Anderson. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, Hyperion, 2004. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html and http://www.thelongtail.com/.

Copyright © 2007 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

This excerpt is from the new book, Executing SOA: A Practical Guide for the Service-Oriented Architect, authored by Norbert Bieberstein, Robert G. Laird, Keith Jones, and Tilak Mitra, published by IBM Press, May 2008, ISBN 0132366258 Copyright 2008 by International Business Machines Corporation. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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