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.

If you are one of the many enterprise architects who have great visions of what SOA can do for your organization, but can't find anyone in the organization to provide the financial support needed to bring SOA to realization, listen to this real life story of how you can get the business to go to bat for you.

A medium sized company, who will remain unnamed, was supporting a sophisticated, proprietary supply chain system that was taking an army of developers to keep it running. The business was changing rapidly and the demands for new features and enhancements were far exceeding development's ability to meet the customers' needs. The system was several years old and needed to be integrated with several other silo legacy systems. The UI was not user friendly and was in dire need of workflow capabilities. The business wanted something to change but did not want to sign up for another long painful rewrite. So IT turned this liability into a win-win proposition for both the business and IT. Here's how.

First, IT put together a cost/benefit analysis for only the IT side of the equation. There was a huge opportunity to reduce the amount of resources required to maintain the legacy system while providing business value by improving speed to market, increasing new development capacity, and improving quality. When presenting their findings, the IT group pointed out that they thought there were even more substantial opportunities on the business side of the equation if the business would evaluate their existing, 20 year old processes.

After convincing key executives in both the business and IT that a large opportunity existed, the business funded the first phase of this initiative and brought in an outside firm to perform a business process analysis. In just 90 days, the current state and future state business processes were modeled and a few compelling opportunities were discovered. What the business discovered after interviewing numerous people throughout the organization, including several customers, was that their existing processes where not only costing more then twice of what the future state would cost, but they were potentially limiting the company's ability to create more sales.

At the end of this phase, the major IT and business stakeholders held a future state design meeting. In this meeting, the business discussed specific use cases that they needed in the future state that would allow them to reduce costs and increase revenue. For each use case, IT would describe the technology required to satisfy the use case. The use cases contained items like wizard based data entry forms, visibility into orders, B2B web interface, operational reporting, and integration with several legacy systems. IT was able to map those use cases to a BPMS/SOA solution to create a robust, user friendly, workflow system that could be deployed rapidly without rebuilding years of legacy systems. What the business heard was BPMS and SOA would answer their prayers.

The next step was to sell the CEO and his leadership team on how the company could be transformed by reevaluating its business processes and applying BPMS and SOA to help the business achieve its goals. It was the business and IT, hand in hand, selling this idea to the executives. The sell was easy and the company has moved on to the next phase with sufficient funding and executive level support.

I know this was a long story but here is the point. The IT team knew for 3 years that a BPMS and SOA solution was the answer to the problems that they faced each day. But IT had not figured out how to sell it and how to fund it. Finally, the pain became so great that IT realized that they had to figure out a way to sell these concepts to the business. First they showed that the cost/benefit just in IT was substantial. This got people's attention. Once they got people's attention, they were able to engage the business and gave the business ownership of transforming the company. Once the business had bought in, the rest was history. So what is the moral of the story?
Aligning technology with real business cases increases your ability to sell technology to those who write the checks.


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