These days, unfortunately, many organization’s applications portfolios are a lot like most people’s garages. You don’t touch the precarious pile of tools or open the exploding closet because at least you know where everything is and there might come a day when you need that broken, bunny-eared television set. The task of organizing what you have is daunting so it is ignored, or at best, re-shuffled.

Over the past few decades, the growth of solutions for different enterprise department needs has resulted in a multitude of systems and applications. Given an opportunity to start over, an enterprise would likely create a much more cohesive and streamlined solution for its current and projected business priorities; however, few enterprises have this luxury. In reality, most enterprises have to factor in the assets they possess, revitalize them to the best extent possible and ensure there is a seamless way to integrate with other solutions across the eco-system of its trading partners.

Companies need to transform their technology portfolios to serve the overall needs of the business. In other words, they have to clean out the garage. This transformation must be performed in a manner that promotes seamless information sharing and functional interoperability across the enterprise. Achieving this enterprise-wide integration means eliminating the domain-specific mentality that previously isolated business functions, applications and infrastructure.

The benefit of this type of transformation is that enterprises may enjoy a new degree of predictability in technology outcomes related to time, cost, performance, scalability and the future applicability of technology elements. Additionally, a single point of escalation and accountability can foster greater end-to-end responsibility for business results, and well-defined points of measurement and governance hold the whole system together.

The first step is taking stock of existing assets and determining what needs to be preserved or modernized. Next, assets that can be modernized should factor in emerging processes and technologies available today – many of which may not have been available at the time the given asset was implemented. Finally, this revitalization must be performed in a manner that seamlessly integrates modernized assets with existing assets while providing a sound integration framework for incorporating new solutions using next-generation technologies.

To achieve the proper balance between current-state constraints and future-state goals, key decisions must be made at each transition point along the transformation journey. These decisions are based upon several factors, including maturity of the enterprise, risk tolerance, availability of funds, organizational culture and employee skills and capabilities.

There are several dimensions to the transformation process. Enterprises should aim for a standards-driven approach, but must also consider the proprietary nature of some legacy applications. Multiple solution layers must be carefully integrated to ensure the overall quality of the transformed solution components. The security and scalability of the transformed solutions must be balanced against the overall cost of ownership. To successfully transform, an enterprise must have the maturity to adapt to the changes introduced by the transformation process.

Modernization and service-oriented architecture are two fundamental approaches to an enterprise transformation program. The synergies realized from the combination of modernization and SOA must be effectively employed during the definition of the transformation program and the identification of key projects.

Modernization is the process by which selected assets are transformed incrementally to operate cohesively, seam¬lessly and efficiently using the most appropriate combination of technologies. Modernization should be driven by the organization’s over¬all business strategy. For instance, modernized applications require a modern infrastructure. Legacy data structures may need to be transformed and cleansed to create state-of-the-art information systems able to accommodate changing requirements.

Shareable business functions are a foundational component of the service-oriented approach. These business functions can be rapidly rearranged and adapted to meet changing business needs and are implemented as reusable services. SOA applies the principles of reuse and governance across multiple environments and is supported by industry and IT standards. Those shared services can help organizations achieve the cost reduction and improved time-to-market benefits associated with enterprise transformation across organizations, processes, applications, data and infrastructure.

The combined application of modernization and SOA principles enable the transformation of the enterprise by:

  • Taking advantage of legacy assets while focusing on reusable business components,
  • Re-engineering seamless business processes based on composite applications designed to provide accurate information on a real-time basis,
  • Applying more rigorous application development and testing processes to reduce the risk of failure, and
  • Managing stability across increasingly complex technology and protocol infrastructures to reduce the impact of outages.

These results are accomplished over multiple phases and realized by individual projects, which contribute to end-to-end systems integration solutions that are closely aligned with the business objectives.
Modernization performed as part of an overall service-oriented paradigm is a highly effective way to leverage existing assets and combine them with new value-added services. The simultaneous application of these two approaches results in seamless, agile integration – a mechanism by which enterprises bring together various aspects of modernized processes, applications, infrastructure, data and organization, while adapting to changing business and market demands.

While modernization enables integration through the revitalization of assets, the service-oriented approach brings about the underlying agility needed to quickly adapt to change. To continue the metaphor, this isn’t just throwing away everything in the garage, it’s checking on the viability of each tool, finding out whether it can be repaired, and then reorganizing the garage in a systematic way that leaves room for any new additions.

Enterprises tend to react to a point-in-time stimulator – external or internal – and embark upon the modernization or service orientation of only a fragment of the enterprise. Organizations may perceive immediate gains from such initiatives, but those gains tend to dwindle over time when these initiatives are not executed in the context of an overall enterprise transformation program. Although it is tempting to respond to near-term developments, mature enterprises should adopt a holistic approach to transformation and undertake the key projects needed to enable this transformation.

There is a cascading set of benefits to this kind of holistic enterprise transformation. Business processes become more efficient. Enabling applications are transformed. Underlying data is rationalized. Infrastructure is re-engineered to take advantage of the latest trends in technology. The enterprise organizes itself with the appropriate skills to align with the changing landscape. Finally, modernized systems will have a lower cost of ownership over the support and maintenance periods of those systems.

Enterprises need a two-part strategy to address the unique, and often daunting, challenge of “cleaning out the garage” that they face. Not just by modernizing. Not just by using SOA. Modernization and SOA initiatives are successful long-term only in the context of an enterprise transformation program. Harmonizing a healthy blend of modernization and SOA approaches in the context of an enterprise transformation program will help the organization achieve agile integration and exponentially increase the effectiveness of its transformation program.

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