If only enterprise IT worked like my iPad ... or at least my car

Architects and biz chiefs still not talking

It’s extraordinary, but with all our high tech knowledge and skills we don’t have a vocabulary to articulate the business problem in a way that allows effective communications between the participants. Many IT organizations have embraced services as a way to organize systems capabilities more effectively. These might be Web Services or APIs or referred to collectively as Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). But, even if these software services are architected to align with business perspective, they are always managed as a technical matter, defined and managed by the IT organization.

Yet line-of-business managers do understand services as a business concept; virtually every business product today has a service component to it. The global service provider industry has formed around this idea, and in the UK today service industries account for 77 per cent of the economy. So while IT and business share the common underlying concept, at the practical level there is no meeting of minds.

In order to create a better bridge between business and IT we need to work with both the “how” and the “what” the business is, and we can do this by complementing business processes with business services. Business services are a very natural way to talk about “what” the business does today and tomorrow, while business processes focus on the “how”. Because you don’t reinvent an industry by just analysing business processes, you also need to evolve and innovate with improved and new business services.

A good example of a service oriented business is Amazon.com Inc. They are well known as a service provider because they have constructed the Amazon enterprise as a set of business services which are offered to various external parties – enabling suppliers to sell second hand books or electronic goods on the Amazon platform; or providing data storage and Cloud services to other enterprises.

The Amazon business services combine the compute and the business service integrating the commercial contracts, business processes, people, physical assets as well as the service interfaces that enable computer to computer or computer to device communications.

Using a common business and IT concept permits sensible analysis of whether a service is just a unit of cost, or what the strategic value is now and in the future, and what it adds to the business value chain. Given so many line-of-business managers are thoroughly familiar with the very high technology in their smart phones and other devices, it really is time for IT to treat the business as a mature partner and for the line-of-business manager to take real responsibility for the business service as a whole product.

Whilst Amazon is a very public example of business services providing extraordinary business value, the same ideas are being adopted by more conventional enterprises. Examples of enterprises that the author is currently guiding down this path include a global technology infrastructure service provider, a global document service provider and a European bank.

Increasingly we see a convergence of IT and business organizations. The business service concept is an essential piece of vocabulary to focus on business innovation and get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet to potentially huge advantage of the business. Just look at the Amazon example! ®

David Sprott is the CEO and Principal of Everware-CBDI International. He’s a consultant, researcher, author and educator specializing in service oriented architecture and related practice. You can hear him share his knowledge and experiences at the "Iasa UK Architect Summit - Enabling Disruptive Innovation" on the 25th and 26th of April 2013 in London. Click here to find out more.

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