Making a Case for Service Oriented Architecture

HR Technology

BEA (owners of WebLogic and as of the writing of this, going through a takeover bid from Oracle), sponsored a survey from GCR (formerly Gartner Custom Research) around the rational for implementing SOA in global organizations. The results were generally on track with what I’d expect.

Over three quarters of respondents expect SOA to reduce integration costs. Slightly fewer expect to see similar savings in maintenance. Only half of respondents think that SOA will result in lower development expenditures. The general take away is there is an overall expectation that SOA will contribute to cost reduction.  ((GCR Survey))

When talking about SOA, the first thing I think about are the integration possibilities. SOA and XML provide fairly standardized ways of plugging applications into the existing application suite. The work of integrating a new application should be much lower in the future, although short term implementation and development costs might be quite high, especially for early adopters.

One of the main problems that we have in HR is the many applications we house. Often, it’s possible to have the talent suite within a single vendor suite, but then there’s the compensation database, benefits outsourcer, payroll vendor, and the large HRMS system. HR is a prime organization that could use SOA.

When asked where they expected to see the greatest impact resulting from SOA implementation, there was a tendency to give greater weight to items more closely associated with business agility. Respondents underscored “customer service improvement” (65%) and “faster time to market” (56%).  ((Ibid))

While business executives are clearly thinking about their real customers, HR’s customers of employees, managers and executives clearly matter too. The ability to provide integrated systems and launch pads whether they are dashboards, self service sites or other clearly relate to our ability to provide service delivery and engagement.

Faster time to market may not seem to be a key HR deliverable, but when looking deeper, our ability to be agile and provide solutions quickly when the C-suite makes a change in incentive compensation approach or asks for a new way of looking at succession planning is rather important. Long gone are the days when it was appropriate to spend 18 months doing a business case, selecting a vendor and implementing – if it was even that fast. Business agility is prized, and our ability to respond to the changing strategies to grow the business is as important as delivering quickly to the external consumer markets.

SOA may not be a core piece of the HRIT strategy because it really belongs at the organizational level. However, once adopted, SOA can reap great advantages in the HR environment. Unfortunately, we’ll still probably have to fight the age old fight of being at the bottom of the list for getting what we need. I think it’s a fight worth going after though as technology around people and talent grows in prominence and importance.

Hat tip to the HR-XML blog for pointing this one out.

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