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15 July 2007

Service oriented architecture for organisational design

SOA is a term developed for IT architecture. It's an equally valid concept for organisational architecture.

High level it's about creating a number of service oriented components that can be called upon to deliver services. It goes nicely with business process management systems.

Think of a system that takes an applications for a loan, calls out to a credit checking tool, get a result and move to the next step, calls out to a document generator and produces a letter of offer, gets a result and then proceeds to the next step. That's service orientation.

Now transfer this idea to business process design and organisational design - business architecture.

Tom Peters wrote a piece called The PSF is Everything! a few years ago calling on departments and teams everywhere to become service oriented in order to support an organisation's quest to be excellent. I recommend reading it for a bit of TP style inspiration, but also to get the idea around the importance of taking on a service oriented approach to teams and departments in order to do well at the big picture level.

The same principles apply to business as in IT: Loosely coupled, easy interface business units that provide a reliable and high quality service make for a more agile and efficient business. These feature provide for less rework, less errors and waste, and more working together as a team to face whatever monster we are up against this month/quarter/year.

Let me list out these key points for you;
  • Loosely coupled
  • Easy interface
  • High quality
When you look around at the corporations you find that most businesses don't work like this. Instead high performing individuals (often boundary spanners) are the ones that oil the machine into working.

When you are designing the future state of your organisation, what, as an analyst or change agent, can you do to improve things?