SOA: Is it worth the effort for a startup company?

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We are actually running a very small 3 year old business in the arts and education industry and we have about 15 employees. Our company does not own any IT systems at all. Even the company website is hosted by a third party web hosting company. Being one of the more IT-inclined personnel, I was roped in by my boss recently to consider implementing certain systems to replace some processes which, until now, were done in a very traditional and manual way. One of the suggestions that my boss came up with was a CRM system to help some of my colleagues handle the customers. Now, I have been reading and I realized that SOA has great promises and potential, so I decided to take a look at it. I realized that one of the ways SOA can help companies deliver more business value was in re-structuring the way their layers of legacy systems and technologies interact. Since my company has just started to pay more attention to utilizing IT, I was wondering to myself: Why not adopt SOA right from the start and slowly build our systems in the SOA way? So I started reading up more and more about SOA. I realized that to truly make this approach a successful one, efforts will have to be put into the business modeling, identify the services, come up with a sound SOA governance policy, not to mention the need for a reliable messaging platform, service bus etc. All these are too much overhead for me. If I were to design and implement the CRM system in the traditional way, it is definitely going to take me much lesser time. However, I cannot neglect the fact that SOA is going to bring in benefits in the long run, since it is highly possible that we are going to need more IT systems in the future. My question is: Is it worth the effect for my company to adopt SOA at this point in time when we are just starting to use IT? If it is, how should I go about doing it? Looking at the general model for implementation, it seems like too much work just to start off.
ASKED: October 6, 2006  10:58 AM
UPDATED: December 4, 2007  8:36 PM

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Your question is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. SOA is an architectural theme to make already implemented services available in a neutral format to consumers (where consumer is some other IT process). In your case, if you have CRM services already in place, you might allow your clients to connect, and implement your internal processes to make use of the same interfaces. In other words, you might want to have some service created before you jump into the SOA soup.

I would recommend that you research the business value your effort is going to bring… for e.g. Say you have a legacy CRM system that employees have to dial into the VPN to use, or perhaps take daily reports on opportunities and go over them manually… The least the new system should be able to do is to allow you to expose a web application that can help the sales people do the same job in shorter amount of time or automatically receive notifications of new opportunities etc.

SOA is only a way to think about your applications and the way the interact with other business processes outside it so that they can work in concert. Now if doing that doesnt gain any business value I’d say you already have a good system or you need to think about the problem differently. SOA for SOA sake is not going to give you your moneys worth.

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  • Growler63
    Your question is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. SOA is an architectural theme to make already implemented services available in a neutral format to consumers (where consumer is some other IT process). In your case, if you have CRM services already in place, you might allow your clients to connect, and implement your internal processes to make use of the same interfaces. In other words, you might want to have some service created before you jump into the SOA soup.
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  • Dwalend
    15 employees? Don't spend extra on SOA infrastructure just yet. Do a good job choosing the customer relations system. (You've identified your first service.) Make sure the one you select can talk to the outside in some standard, well-understood way (so you can plug it into a service bus someday). When the company grows up (or the internet grows up) you'll be in a fine position to do business process modelling. You'll know you're ready when you say, "If only we could tie our customer relations management to ..." Hope that helps, Dave
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  • Juswannano
    Have you seen the following article: http://weblog.infoworld.com/openresource/archives/2006/04/integration_vs.html As far as CRM's go, my company has about 150 people using our CRM. We worked with a few of the most popular CRM products over the last 10 years- some were loaded on each desktop and sync'd regularly, others were web based and managed from an internal server. We had varying levels of success and acceptance of the systems we deployed and managed internally, but the common denominator was that all of them took a lot more IT resources (people and money) to manage and customize. Two years ago, we switched to a hosted service from "SalesForce.com". SFC allows us to tie our internal processes to their service and is very flexible. We have been successful at adding a number of processes to this service so information can be shared between departments. We still have to dedicate resources to mold it into what we need, but I think we have more acceptance of this product than the previous ones, and have gotten much more usefulness from it than all of our past efforts combined.
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