An Enterprise’s Journey to Discovery (1)
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The Premise:The Business and IT divisions of a company called Culinnovations, Inc. (selling kitchen gadgets) have just taken a collective decision to integrate their mainframe based General Ledger (GL) system, SAP R/2-based materials system, and Windows-based reporting system. This decision was taken primarily to consolidate these disparate systems in order to create a new ‘Comprehensive Business Management Solution’, or CBMS. Everyone is in agreement with this plan except for Hari, the company’s unofficial Enterprise Architect, for the simple reason that he can see disaster on the horizon. Hari knows that there will be inevitable roadblocks and future maintenance problems which will arise from integrating systems running on different operating systems, as well as systems that use different protocols and each having their own unique set of apis. Watching this whole drama play out, Hari knows what future problems will likely unfold — however, he is the last one to be consulted on the plan to implement CBMS. This does not deter him, however, for he is more determined than ever to shed some light on the situation and convince them to change their minds.
The Setting:IT’s office building, which is situated on the same campus as Business, but on the opposite end (how appropriate!). Hari approaches his boss’s office with confidence.
His target: to persuade ‘Ernie the IT Director’ to change the company’s overall course of action by moving to an enterprise SOA-based architecture.
Um…Sir, I have something I wanted to share with you.
What’s that Hari…you brought me some M&Ms today?
[Hari was aware of ‘Ernie the IT Director’s’ excessive chocolate addiction but thought it odd that he always asked for M&Ms or Kit-Kats when Hari entered his office – as if instead of being the EA, he was the office’s designated candyman.]
Not today Sir, actually…I wanted to discuss something about our CBMS. I think it might be a good idea to do some analyses into the architectural designs for this solution. We might find ourselves in a real mess by the time our 3 systems are consolidated due to their disparate nature. There might be a more standardized way of integrating these systems, Sir.
There you go again! Cooking up trouble after we’ve already gotten Business onboard with the budget and timelines of this project. This is the only way to go Hari.
[‘Ernie the IT Director’ was always overly idealistic when it came to planning, even facing the facts that were plopped right in front of him. The reality was that the company’s overloaded system architecture was, in fact, crippling its essential ability to support the business due to the conflicting systems and bundled software-of which a healthy portion was not even being used. The other reality was that this current IT infrastructure was weighing down the IT department by having to maintain such archaic system processes.]
I disagree, Mr. Carlisle. Please just hear me out on this…
[‘Ernie the IT Director’ looked at him with a skeptical smirk, but then submitted with a nod. Hari continued,]
There is another way which is, first of all, not such an extensive overhaul of the current systems because a lot of what we have can be reused, even when we want to change anything in the future, meaning beyond this project. And secondly, it’s not such a huge investment in terms of time and money, whereas the long term return would be significant. The approach that I’m proposing is based on enterprise SOA, which stands for —
— I know very well what it stands for Mr. Architect, I’ve been hearing about it constantly.
[he spat, cutting Hari off].
Look. I know you’re into all these new buzz-terms and technologies, and that’s fine. But don’t impose these new products that haven’t had enough time on the market or any evidence of success, and then expect these things to solve all our problems.
First off Sir, eSOA is not a product which you buy. It’s more like a course of action…or approach…or set of principles — whatever definition you prefer — which helps and enables the process of bridging current systems and creating an architecture that is more flexible, and thus easier to maintain. And I believe that all it will take to get the idea — and I’m not even talking about funding or training yet, just the concept of eSOA — off the ground with the business department is just the opportunity to convey to them as a team what the benefits would be to have a service-oriented architecture. Just think Sir, about what an improvement this could bring to our organization [Hari started to feel a rush of excitement just talking about the possibilities]. It provides a very concrete way of planning out the direction of our company, not only in terms of innovation for business processes, but also for really aligning the way business works with IT.
Hari, I hate to be ‘Captain Bring-Down’ here, but we already have our hands full with too many system requirements, requirements from business, budgetary constraints, and on and on…. Isn’t it enough that we have to handle all those things, and now you want to introduce a new concept!? You’re a real boat-rocker with all this talk of eSOA, you know that?!
Excuse me for saying so Sir, but you’re not seeing the bigger picture here. Without good architectural planning, how can you expect to build a home that suits your needs, no matter how big or small it is? And as I mentioned before, this does not require a huge upfront investment to start implementing eSOA. We just need the right tools to get us off on the right start.
That’s all well and good Hari, but….well, it just does NOT sound like something for this IT department, at least at this juncture. There’s too much at stake to risk betting on a newer technology. Maybe we can look into it, once we see how the eSOA wave is affecting other companies, and after the turnaround from our own planned integration.
[Hari stood there in silence, not knowing whether to be more persistent in convincing his boss that he was right and they were wrong, or to just call it a day. He chose the latter. On his way out, ‘Ernie the IT Director’ called out,]
Come back when you have some chocolate to share with me,
[and he chuckled lightly under his breath, but just audible enough for Hari to hear.]
[‘Okay’ thought Hari, ‘maybe I was trying too hard to take the bull by the horns, without first getting some help to pull against his weight. I need some reinforcement here: this calls for a chat with ‘Stu the Developer’.]
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Hey Stewart, you have a couple of minutes?
Well, um….I guess so Hari. But I have to get right back to this nasty error that I’m getting…. Otherwise, ‘Ted the project manager’ will be sharpening his knife to skin my hide.
OK Stu, I’ll try to make it quick…
[Hari always struggled talking to this guy….it was like he had at least 50 marbles rolling around in his head at all times, which he was busily trying to keep track of–even when carrying on a conversation.]
Actually, I wanted to ask if you’ve ever heard of enterprise service-oriented architecture, or eSOA?
Well I’ve heardabout it.
Oh man, you’d be blown away by all of its capabilities, technically speaking, as well as on a larger scale.
What’s so great about it?
Well, for starters, the landscape on which it’s based is all about open standards architecture, whereby enterprise services can communicate with one another in a way that is entirely more flexible and limitless than any other technology in terms of working within SAP or even other non-SAP systems for that matter.
[Hari felt a sudden glimmer of hope as he saw ‘Stu the Developer’s’ eyes open like clamshells though his thick, magnifying specs. Hari quickened his pace of speaking, so not to lose Stu’s all-too-transient attention-span.]Like, for instance if you want to —
— Um, Hari? Don’t mind, but I really don’t have much idea about all this newer technology. Anyway, I have to get back to this error in my program.
[Hari felt a sudden pang of defeat. He thought to himself somberly, ‘Is this comput-aholic really getting lured back to the 50 marbles in his brain?? I thought I had a chance.’]
I mean…well, don’t get me wrong. It sounds neat and all, but what does it have to do with us? And I think this NetWeaver is pretty new isn’t it? So my background is not in that area.
Stewart, it’s easier to understand how eSOA works than you think it may be. If you understand the complexities of using apis and coding standards, then you can definitely wrap your head around this stuff.
Listen Hari, I don’t have time to learn all this. I still have to finish repairing this patch for the compatibility update, not to mention that stupid error that Ted is on my case about fixing ASAP!
[Hari was starting to lose his cool. He thought at least ‘STU the DEVELOPER’ would be willing to hear him out because of his technical interest and knowledge].
OK, fair enough Stewart. You get back to your tasks. But just keep in mind what I said, and one friendly word of advice I have is that you should really try to increase your awareness of these changes and advancements that are happening in IT.
Humph! [‘Stu the Developer’ snorted in response]. Well what’s to say that this whole SOA craze is not just a passing fad, another hyped-up, silver bullet, hocus-pocus type of thingy that companies fall for and then fall apart?! Anyway, our system works as it is!
[‘Poor ‘Stu the Developer’ Hari thought. He could see that Stu was starting to get a bit rough around the edges from this whole conversation. Hari didn’t really understand what there was to get so defensive about. But regardless, he had already surrendered to this battle of trying to convince Stu after hearing the words ‘hocus-pocus’ and worse still, that ‘our system works as it is’ !!]
OK Stu, I’ll let you get back to what you were working on. Good luck with that error man. [And he backed out of ‘Stu the Developer’s’ tiny, cluttered office cubicle].
[Hari was deep in thought on his way out of the IT building. He had definitely endured enough for the day. Then it suddenly occurred to him, ‘That’s it! I’ve got to talk to someone who has more of the businessgoals in mind so that they can see a bigger picture of how eSOA can align with those goals and improve things in our company!’ Hari decided he would cross that bridge another day. For the time being, he would work on refining his strategy to get all of them to be as excited about eSOA as he was.