Freedom For Ideas

Sharing ideas, concepts and thoughts, mainly about Information Technology – and consulting

Archive for the ‘SOA’ Category

You don’t need a damned e-shop, your customers deserve more!

Posted by Yannick Martel on September 24, 2009

Going shopping?

I admit it, I am a telco guy, having worked in that sector for longer than I care to count. It is thus a pleasure for me to see telecom operators transform and adapt, when they do it for good. I appreciate seeing new ideas take form and shape for the benefit of all, vendors and customers. But it seems to me most telcos are struggling with their Internet strategies. They have a hard time setting up nice enough Internet site, keeping them up and running and attracting customers to them.

Probably that’s the reason why I want to share here what I would like to tell them, especially after reading Jeff Jarvis.

1- Stop calling the Internet site where you promote your products and sell them an e-shop or an Internet boutique.

Once you know a thing’s name, your control it. That’s the nice side of the coin. The other side is: you name it wrong, you get it wrong. Naming your selling site a boutique means it will be only this, a copy of a physical shop, where you only expect to sell at a reduced cost – to you. Thus at best it will provide a slightly worse experience than a physical shop. Don’t ask why your customers are still going there.

Instead, you should find what else it could be, and try to do it. But that should be something better, unique, which can be done only via the power of Internet – and we know that we can do many new things thanks to Internet. If you don’t, just take a tour before building your web site.

2- Stop positionning it as a competition to your physical shops

A bit of a competition is good, too much can be dangerous, especially inside a firm. Build your business relationships, most of all with your colleagues, on trust and cooperation, not competition – don’t worry, competition will come by the side, even if not encouraged. This means you should develop the Internet media as a new, original one, which has its own niche, and is complementary to shops. If your Internet presence compete with your physical shops, it means that you are not promoting at their best the advantage of each channel. And don’t forget: while your are busy managing the devastating effects of internal competition, others might be taking care of your (old) customers.

3- Create a community and hand it control

The Web 2.0 is all about communities. We are lucky in that mobile phone and even Internet access are already community-oriented. Mobile phones are trendy gadgets, and for many accessing the Internet via an operator is being part of his community. Not for everybody, but you only need a small critical mass to start with it.

So the advice is, straight from What Would Google Do?: make your on-line presence a platform on which communities can live and flourish. As a side-effect, these communities can help you sell your products, or better use them. If you take care to listen and cooperate with them, they can help you improve your products, get better support, package them the right way or price them the right way. First, you accept to be influenced, and then you give them some control. Then they can help you and work for you – by working for themselves.

4- Don’t do it all yourself

If this program sounds pretty difficult, you are on the right way. But don’t do it all yourself! You can build the minimum infrastructure, hand them the tools, and then get ideas and help from the masses. Your devoted users can help you design your next best-selling products. They can also build many aeras of your next successful community platforms (aka web sites). Allow and encourage plug-ins and links.

5- Provide them access to your best deep resources

That’s the best of true SOA and SSOA. If you really want to get help and you are serious about it, you should do your best to those people devoted to help you. You should give them access to your most valuable resources, to the depths of your IT, network and service infrastructure. And the best part of it: be happy if they are using it better than your own guys.

And now, where do we start?

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Something new on Mashups and SOA

Posted by Yannick Martel on December 3, 2008

Before / After Services

At least something new about SOA! Many articles and discussions on SOA only address the technical or implementation aspects of SOA. We then wonder SOA is only a technology for IT departments to worry about, or whether it really concerns IT users. I have frequently been frustrated by some of the debates about SOA: much ado about nothing… Of course technology has evolved, but, more or less, service-oriented architectures have been possible for a long time, and have not been invented with Web Services. Limiting the debate on SOA with reorganizing existing IT applications around services restricts the debate to technicians – with only incremental improvements to bring to users. So why should they pay for major changes? An incremental improvement can justify only a progressive introduction, always guided by business requirements or a quest for optimizations.

Mashups Corporations brings something new with inviting directly the corporation’s strategy into the discussion. Organized as a novel (in the tradition of The Goal), its introduces us into a “brick and mortar” corporation, which is ultimately lead to evolving its IT under pressure from some Marketing product manager attracted by the new possibilities of Internet and Web 2.0.

This corporation’s IT is at the beginning of the book organized traditionally as a cost center, an expensive black box, tolerated as necessary for the company, secured and closed. In the shadow of this official IT, a “pirate” IT (the Shadow IT) survives, developed by employees avid to put new technologies in the service of their innovative ideas. Change arrives when the Shadow IT opens up to the outside (quite inadvertently at first) and allows third parties (client, prescriptors…) to interact with it. To cope with the new flow of transactions and revenue then generated, the official IT must open up (just a bit) to the Shadow IT. Then we begin to see the real, bottom-line certified justification for services and a service architecture. From a central fortress, opened only via GUIs, with a few Shadow IT autonomous cells, we switch to a central core, which provides access to internal and external applications via well-defined interaction points – services. This is the justification for SOA, as opposed to morphing an existing stable architecture into a service-oriented one, with limited business value.

This transformation creates new problems for the IT department, as well as provides a new positioning: from a cost center, attached to the CFO, the IT department becomes an innovation facilitator, supporting fundamental and industrial processes as well as new ideas – for people who can experiment, try, fail and succeed, develop new revenue streams, whether they are part of the company or not. IT must change its culture and its mission at the service of the rest of the company. Shadow ITs becomes authorized and officially supported.

What is the recipe for attracting and retaining customers in the XXIst century? Let’s allow third parties to develop new applications which process transactions by interacting with the core applications of the company. Once these third parties, prescriptors, clients, communities, are hooked onto your systems, they are attached to you. They find a competitive value in the interaction with your IT, which your competitors does not bring them – yet. The merit of Mashups Corporations resides in this perspective of SOA related to Web 2.0, justified by new capabilities to innovate and open. The technical information brought by Mashups Corporations (in appendices) is pretty standard, bringing nothing new as compared to mainstream SOAP-SOA – no debate on resource vs RPS styles, nor alternatives to Model Driven approaches. But that’s not the core of the book, nor of the debate.

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Self-Service Oriented Architecture

Posted by Yannick Martel on September 3, 2008

How easy are they to use? Do you need any documentation?

How easy are they to use? Do you need any documentation?

For the benefit of those who have lived in a cave for the past four years, I can announce that Service Oriented Architecture, or SOA, has been a major trend lately. I won’t debate whether it is past history or not, whether it has failed or not – it is generally admitted that SOA is there, and not anymore at the bleeding edge. An old-new idea, SOA put a major emphasis on the availability of services. Now, services are made to be consumed, and frequently to be consumed many more times than produced.

Then let us take the global viewpoint, including consumers and producers. If services are made to be produced once, consumed many, then it sounds reasonable to strive for a low-effort consumption, even if it makes things a bit harder for the producer. The producer should position himself as a service shop, delivering services to client and willing to make their life happy and easy. It is the same as in business: if a transaction is pleasantly and effectively concluded, your client is more tempted to come back to you next time and to recommend you to his buddies.

The trouble is that it can be costly to deliver good service to your consumers, and to support them adequately, if you keep your services as they are. This is where I want to introduce the concept of Self-Service Oriented Architecture. This motto emerged from the session at the Université du SI of my coworker at OCTO Technology Ignacio Lizzaralde. Basically, as a producer, you should design your services and provide surrounding infrastructure to make your consumers as self-sufficient as desirable. This means for instance:
– providing simple and clear APIs and resources
– having your APIs and resources exposed on simple to use technologies
– having your services self-documented
– provide documentation with examples
– provide tests environments
– allow your consumers to download client libraries, mockups, help files
– provide a mailing list and a forum to listen to your consumers and have them interact and share experience

I hope you get the idea. This approach is valid whether you are providing services to outside of your company or they are for inside consumption. It is a powerful guideline for designing, implementing and for supporting services.

Generally, service providers are more inclined to deliver good services to the outside, where there is competition. But clearly there is also competition inside a company – competition between different sources for the same data and processes. By making your consumers more efficient at using your services, you are beating internal competition, promoting your efforts while making your company as a whole better. Thus Self-Service Oriented Architecture, or SSOA. Why a new acronym? I want to help fix the concept, as I hope to do with my clients. It can be debated whether SOA as a trend brings anything new to help IT to bring more value to the business. I am convinced that SSOA can.

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