Thursday, August 31, 2006

Supply Side and Demand Side SOA

I come from a manufacturing background, hence I tend to think in terms of products, inventory (the supply) and demand. I do the same thing with SOA.

Most of the companies that I've consulted to start with a 'supply side SOA strategy'. That is, they create a strategy to create a supply of services. As everyone in the manufacturing world knows, creating supply without demand is a really bad thing. Inventory that is not used is considered bad for a few reasons, the primary ones being:
1. You prematurely spent your money
2. As inventory ages, new demand-side requirements will be generated causing the current inventory to become outdated

Most manufacturing companies have moved to some variation of just-in-time production. They wait for customer demand before they build the products. You'd think that this would work for SOA but in many companies it isn't. The reason is simple. These companies do not have a demand-side generator (the sales and marketing engines). Demand-side SOA is a discipline that doesn't exist in many corporations.

Demand-side SOA requires a change in philosophy and process. For starters, you have to begin thinking about all of your services as products or SKU's. Products must be managed in a product portfolio. Products must be marketed to potential 'buyers'. Demand side application builders should have well defined processes to shop for SKU's with cross-selling capabilities. We need to kill the 'service librarian' and replace it with the 'service shopping assistant'. Obviously, we have to quit thinking in terms of 'registries'; 'catalogs' are better - but 'shopping carts' are probably even closer to target.

Demand-side SOA is currently at an infancy. Our ISV vendor community has largely failed us to date but it is only a matter of time before they catch up. In the mean time, it is the responsibility of the I.T. organization to begin changing philosophies and processes to think in terms of supply and demand economics.

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