Enterprise Initiatives

This blog focuses on Enterprise IT topics such as Enterprise Architecture, Portfolio Management, Change Management, Business Process Management, and recaps various technology events and news.

I have been blogging about our SOA project for over a year now. We are closing in on our first year of development and are ready to deliver eight different projects over the next two months. A few months ago we started our second process reengineering effort in another line of business. In this initiative we were able to access the process from pre-sales through contracts/proposals all the way through delivery. In the pre-sales area there is plenty of data mining and data discovery processes that take place so the sales team can go after the best opportunities. The pre-sales process is a business problem that is perfectly suited for our business intelligence (BI) tools. Historically, our BI tools were delivered as stand alone solutions. Now we have a need to allow the users to drill into data, select one to many result sets, and pass the information onto the next business process. In short, this means that we need to connect our BI results to our BPM tool.

In our current implementation, our SOA stack looks like this...

Our BI architecture (we use Microstrategy) looks like this...

But if treat our BI architecture as just another abstracted presentation layer, we get this...

In the previous picture, you can see that our SOA stack does not need to understand or even interface with the complexities of the BI platform. Instead, the selected result set that the user chooses from the BI user interface can trigger a web service to pass the results as an XML message to the SOA stack where the BPM engine takes over and moves the data into the next step of the process. Below is a example of a BI interface that I "borrowed" from the Microstrategy's web site.

Imagine drilling into the subcategory of computers to find an opportunity to sell a loyalty campaign to a customer based on certain performance metrics and demographics. Once the sales person selects a potential opportunity and hits the submit button, the data can be fed into the proposal process and much of the order entry data can be prepopulated to improve quality and save time.

So why does this matter? The point is that when we leverage architectures that abstract the presentation, data, business processes, and business rules, it becomes really simple to integrate applications whether they are home grown or commercially built. Because of the abstraction layers in both our SOA and Microstrategy's architecture, both solutions can treat the other as a black box and simply communicate via services. What makes this even more attractive is if our customers or partners have their own BI tools that we want to integrate with our systems we can simply provide them with an XSD so they know how to format the XML message (of course this assumes that the proper security is in place).

Another benefit of leveraging our BI tools as an abstracted presentation layer is that we can take advantage of many out-of-the-box features from the BI platform. Features like subscription services, alerts, flash enabled emails, mobile support, scorecards, and dashboards are just a few of the many rich features that you do not have to build from scratch. But the big bang is that your CIO will be happy to see you leverage the company's large investments in both BI and SOA while wowing your customers at the same time.


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