Service Orientation in Business

by Jon Collins


While change is a certainty in business, some still struggle to harness it effectively

A recent study gathering feedback from 198 senior business and IT professionals in Europe
confirmed that change is a fact of modern business life. Obvious, perhaps, but the research also
revealed that despite the certainty of ongoing change, organisations vary immensely in their attitude
to it and how well they are geared up to exploit or manage it. At one end of the spectrum we see
those using continuous improvement and more disruptive change to actually drive business
advantage. In organisations of this kind, change is a tool or even a weapon. At the other extreme
we have resistors of change who too often put off the inevitable until upheaval is forced upon them.

Harnessing change goes hand in hand with a service oriented approach to business

Consolidation and rationalisation of functional and departmental structures have often been justified
in terms of cost savings and efficiency. When going down this route, however, if attention is paid to
the proper decoupling of functions and the precise definition of how they interact, the natural result
is a more flexible and responsive service oriented approach to business. The principle of service
orientation is thus well accepted in business management circles, particularly in organisations with
a positive attitude to change. Indeed three quarters of organisations who use change for
competitive advantage document parts of their business in a service oriented manner.

A focus on services also enhances IT’s ability to engage and align with the business

When we look at how service orientation is applied within the IT department, we see the same
correlations in terms of flexibility and responsiveness, as we do on the business side of the house. It
is perhaps unsurprising then, to discover that a co-ordinated approach between business and IT
which considers technology in terms of value rather than cost, also goes hand in hand with
business characteristics such as a positive change culture and management style.

A service oriented approach to architecting systems also enhances responsiveness

When we look at the technology dimension a little more closely, it is clear that the concept of
service orientation that enables organisational flexibility at a business level is also starting to be
applied to the design and construction of IT systems. In this context, the term ‘Service Oriented
Architecture’ (SOA) is used to describe the same principles of compartmentalisation, decoupling of
functional units, and clear definition of interfaces between operational elements that are already
very familiar to many business people. And the impact is very similar too according to the research,
in that IT departments adopting the SOA approach appear to be more flexible, responsive and
better able to maintain alignment with business priorities and practices.

Lessons can be learned from those leading the way

Within this report, we further explore the above findings, then go on to look at how lessons can be
learned from the behaviour of those at the forefront of the move to a more harmonious Service
Oriented approach with respect to managing both the business and IT for competitive advantage.

Content Contributors: Jon Collins

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