Your Customers' Systems Investments Deserve to Last

Saru Seshadri, president & CEO of Ultramatics Inc., explains how channel partners' use of SOA architecture can reduce the escalating cost of software waste

It’s amazing how much IT investment ends up in the trash.

Just like old shoes, broken furniture and rusty golf clubs, the dumps are full of discarded computers, printers, monitors and just about any other form of technology you can imagine. Those trash heaps include plenty of CDs and more than a few deteriorating floppy disks. Fortunately, with electronic software licensing, a lot less of that intellectual property is physically on the junk pile.

The cost of software waste, however, is staggering. Companies spend billions on capabilities they never use, assets only partially deployed, and applications for personnel poorly trained to use them. Solution providers can certainly share in taking some of the blame.

We all know the horror stories where multi-million-dollar investments end up causing multi-faceted problems. Myriad patches are applied. Consultant hours escalate. Some of the existing issues are resolved, but new moles surface without enough mallets to whack them all.

So, then what? Of course, it’s time to invest in a new solution. Maybe do the same thing all over again!

Such fatal mistakes often come down to not sufficiently considering the overall systems architecture in regard to business processes. With Service Oriented Architecture, or SOA, business requirements drive how information and technology is integrated across an organization in regard to current as well as planned applications. Quick wins are a key advantage, unlike traditional IT rollouts where benefits may not be realized for months or even years, if at all.

More often than not, enterprise environments consist of a patchwork of point-to-point solutions developed internally and externally. Processes are consequently overly complicated and burdensome. Putting the right SOA framework in place means building and integrating applications based on key principles and methodologies. SOA should also translate into a sustainable comprehensive solution that internal IT departments run with — versus running up more independent consultant fees and never-ending external support.

If all this sounds like nirvana, it’s probably because SOA is about as close as you’ll come to that from a software development standpoint. The reality is no one can say any particular solution is a perfect fit for every company. On the other hand, the inherent flexibility of SOA basically assures that the solution ties directly to unique corporate goals and what individual business environments necessitate.

When fundamental approaches change in a critical business area such as IT, there’s always a learning curve, some apprehension and uncertainty. Functions may actually change as SOA takes root. Order takers focused on executing transactions may now be freed up to be more consultative. Customers looking for support may find it more beneficial and intuitive to go online instead of on the phone for answers. Interfaces and applications start to take on a familiar look and feel. Training can predominantly focus on helping personnel capitalize on new opportunities rather than the way to access, enter and save data. Business process specialists and others emerge as stronger leaders, more empowered to help the company grow, unencumbered by software functionality.

Tougher competition, tighter regulatory requirements and other emerging challenges cannot be denied. SOA establishes communication protocols that allow for seamless information sharing across all service offerings, including via the Web and intranets. Customers can scale their IT environment and efficiently re-apply IT building blocks that quickly evolve operations from the initial SOA installation.

What SOA really spells is ROI, something solution providers need to deliver under all circumstances: lower development costs; faster process upgrades; more rapid adoption of new applications; interoperability between disparate systems and programming languages; and a clear, proven means to innovate.

When your customers are ultimately looking for customer service improvement and new competitive advantages, I can’t think of a better foundation. The rewards are higher, the risks lower.

It certainly beats all those trips to the enterprise systems trash bin.

(Saru Seshadri is president & CEO of Ultramatics Inc.)

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