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Build a business case: developing custom apps

Editor's blog A recent chat with Peter Dragunas, HP's director of network domain solutions, has highlighted the way business models are now assuming greater importance than technology in the development of service-based environments.

His own area of responsibility, HP's telecommunications service provider customers, are proving to be a good hunting ground for inspiration and guidance on how to develop solutions to the business problems faced by many other sectors where a service-based infrastructure is being implemented or contemplated.

"The telco business is the leading industry when it comes to hitting service-based business problems and finding solutions to them," he said. "As service providers, they have a good understanding of the issues and have been able to drive the development of standards. They also hit these issues at a level most other enterprises never see."

This has also meant telco players have been among the earliest to exploit communications to provide new services to customers. Dragunas pointed to the Walmart announcement last year of a service where users can go to a store and purchase a DVD containing a specifically downloaded film or video. Even in the USA, the land of the web-savvy, allowing customers to get their hands on a physical DVD rather than a direct PC download is probably a good judgement of the state of the market.

He also pointed to the way Japanese mobile phone service providers have started to allow "credit card" services using the phone itself as the "card". Customer purchases are "simply" added to the monthly phone bill – in fact, a seriously non-trivial business process involving communications with the retail outlet and banking services. This also combines the capabilities of communications with the powerful micro-billing engines telcos have developed over the years.

Even here, however, he sees the traditional service delivery companies as too oriented towards the technology rather than the business model, where they have difficulty pulling the technology together in the same way as the new leading brands in service delivery, which he suggests are the likes of Google and Yahoo!. "These are becoming the leading service aggregators," he said.

For a company like HP, one of the key lessons learned servicing the needs of the telco space is the way business models from that industry can be applied across the majority of other sectors as they move to service-based infrastructures and business models.

"The issue is not the technology, it is about the management of change, and the key issue is taking the chance to build common business processes and getting all the elements of an organisation to talk together," Dragunas said.

Human communication remains, therefore, one of the fundamental problems the vendors of SOA infrastructures face. Such factors as different business sectors having different terminology for the same basic processes is one of the key problems, as vendors can waste a great deal of time trying to "learn" a potential customer's business only to find that it is in practice broadly similar to another sector they already service.

On the other side of the coin, different vendors use different technical terminology to describe solutions to potential customers that are, in many cases, remarkably similar in practice. As Dragunas observed, what is needed now is a major taxonomy mapping exercise between different industry sectors. ®

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