Four key concepts for SOA

The buzz about SOA seems to have faded away. There are no more conferences dedicated to the topic; the demand for training is declining; market leaders are trying to push new tags. Is it a sign that the SOA approach has been broadly accepted? Does it mean that the SOA logic has been assimilated and understood in depth? After a decade or so, do we have to draw the conclusion that the so-called paradigm has failed?

When considering the low level of modeling practices and the hesitations about architecture (EA, BA, CA…), one might wonder if the topic has really been exhausted. Being confronted with all sorts of issues due to low quality in IT, as a customer, as a citizen or as an agent, we surely expect dramatic improvements in the IT systems to come. At an age when digital business and innovation are commonly acclaimed as the new Utopian myth, the task of overhauling the systems is still on the table. SOA is precisely about rebuilding our systems, drawing up an optimal structure so as to avoid redundancy and to allow for interoperability.

It is about IT, but it is also an enabler for some strategic directions. Indeed, the SOA approach relates to business concerns since it can help by:

  • better serving scorecards by merging the decisional and the operational systems;
  • taking advantage of big data capabilities;
  • adding feedback loops throughout the business processes and the organizations;
  • contributing to enterprise transformation by simplifying and extending the value chain.

As an enterprise transformation methodology, Praxeme promotes a rigorous approach in order to improve our IT systems in depth. It proposes a method for designing services and architectures. This SOA approach can be summarized through four simple messages:

  1. SOA is an IS architectural style (which implies a specific role play between logical and technical architectures as disciplines).Styles
  2. If we are to live up to the expectations raised by the SOA movement, if we are to deliver on the promise of better quality, reusability, and interoperability in IT, we have to choose overhaul SOA over cosmetic SOA (or “False SOA”).FOA versus SOA
  3. To achieve the optimal system that will ease business and spur transformation, we have to summon and link together several disciplines, namely IT city planning, logical architecture and design, and technical architecture. We also have to equip them with proper representation techniques.POS versus Graphe d'architecture logique
  4. Due to the complexity of the systems, the scope of the endeavor and the diversity of skills required, it would be naïve to think we can reach the target without a method.
Positioning the Logical Aspect

Positioning the logical aspect

These four messages are detailed in the article “Praxeme’s four key concepts for SOA”.

French version: “Quatre idées fortes de Praxeme pour SOA“.

Enterprise methodology

Everyone agrees: the enterprise is a complex object, woven from many threads, continually obliged to adapt itself to an ever-changing world. How do we think of this complexity? How do we say everything about the enterprise without running the risk of omitting a decisive factor? How do we find the right ideas that will provide for the future?

It would be wrong to imagine that a single formula, like a magic spell, would suffice to comprehend this complex reality. We have to assemble many disciplines and link various centers of expertise. To foster synergy, we have to place them in an interdisciplinary framework, one that is coherent and able to leverage all the contributions. This requirement defines enterprise methodology.

Praxeme is an enterprise methodology, resulting from the initiative for an open method. It is based on an analysis of the Enterprise System and its internal logic. The procedures it offers cover all aspects of the enterprise, from ethics to infrastructure, from knowledge to logistics, including processes and organization.

It is one thing to have methods available for each aspect of the enterprise (methods for strategists, for organizers, for IT specialists or accountants, etc.); it is another thing to meticulously articulate them so as to obtain a harmonious transformation chain. The original concern for Praxeme was precisely that: to answer the need to coordinate the disparate specialties, all equally legitimate and necessary, but which communicate with difficulty.

This need is felt, first of all, by the heads of businesses and public sector organizations and is particularly strongly felt by those whose organizations are confronted by change. Faced with the heterogeneity of the proposals, decision-makers seek a general framework that can optimize the investment: if they focus the effort on one point of the transformation chain, if they sacrifice themselves to the urgencies of the moment, they need assurance that this action will be part of a broader plan, deployed across all the dimensions of the enterprise. They also seek ways to stimulate innovation, not only by copying what the competition is doing or adopting the latest technologies, but also by taking a fresh look at the business, by moving away from the center, by reinventing themselves. Yet, human psychology, the forces of preservation, the games actors play… all conspire to prevent this transformation.

Consequently, it is an absolute necessity to have at one’s disposal a method that reveals the phenomena at work and which provides concrete means to overcome them. The primary contribution from Praxeme is an awareness of the complexity and the recognition of the cognitive universes that must be connected and solicited. Ethics, terminology, metrology, modeling, sociology and systems architecture are some of the disciplines that enable us to approach the enterprise reality. They produce representations that the method helps to formalize and connect. For example, process design is inspired by ethical requirements, that is to say the values stated by the enterprise. Similarly, the information system follows from the business models, according to the derivation rules that guarantee its alignment and its agility.

Praxeme has been applied on different scales and in all sectors of activity. The applications include the overhaul of information systems, innovation in armament systems, modeling transport systems, evolving practices, the convergence between systems or businesses in a federation of enterprises, interoperability… The French government, in order to carry out its important state modernization programs, recommends using this method.

Given its ambition, Praxeme is a permanent work in progress. The initiative wants to be open, in both senses, where it welcomes contributions and makes its results available to all, royalty-free. Version 1 is available in the form of methodological guides that lay the foundations. Version 2 is currently being written and will complete the corpus with procedure sheets targeting the different actors in the transformation. The Praxeme Institute, a not-for-profit, state-approved association, coordinates the work and ensures the spirit of openness is respected.

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