Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enterprise architects: 'turn your company upside down'

Some of the best service orientation case studies have been built on changes to the way enterprises view their business: transitioning from cultures centered around products to cultures focused on customers.

Jeanne Ross, director and principal research scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research, recently spoke with SearchSOA’s Jack Vaughn about the impact that enterprise architects can make on corporate culture:

“A large insurance company such as Aetna, for example, may have built up thousands of products and all of their systems were organized around insurance products. And what they realized is that was not how they were going to ever satisfy their customers. They wanted to know their customers and the customers’ products, not the Aetna [view of] products and all the customers that bought it. If you want a single face to the customer you think of the customer as the center of universe, not the product.

Now, that’s a huge transition - to say, ‘I’m going to fix that. I’m going to change my capabilities so instead of knowing products I’m going to know customers.’ You basically turn your company upside down.”

Ross says it it’s no longer enough for EAs to put a shared infrastructure in place and stand back and declare the business to be “enabled.” EAs need to follow through on the process, she advocates. “People are too busy. They don’t take it on. Architects are going to have to take on greater responsibility and/or concern for the exploitation of capabilities.” That means a lot of follow-up with end users as they roll out new capabilities.

Many companies have built up rigid silos and structures built around products. The move to service orientation shouldn’t be limited to exchanging services between siloed systems, it means becoming service oriented toward the customer.

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