When software, users, and companies all evolve along similar lines running in the same direction, that direction is worth noting. Think user collaboration, user mashup, user-generated content – user, user, user.
The Web trains its users in the value of collaboration, and the utility of mashups, and the ready availability of services that arise to be consumed on demand and then disappear.
In the background, developers create enabling software that allows for service reusability within a service oriented architecture, and work to expose application and business processes, so that interoperability can develop between systems across the network.
As system functionality and user habit become increasingly integrated, knowledge – the ultimate corporate treasure – moves closer to perfect on the quality scale.
Within this general environment, software developers such as Dovetail Software and Microsoft roll out their own products and iterations, and it becomes natural to notice the similarities between one’s own developments and the industry trends.
Microsoft is bringing increased business intelligence into the corporate system through evolution of its Office suite of products. For half a decade the company has enabled enterprise collaboration and content management with its Sharepoint and other services. The latest iteration, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS), combines a number of separately existing function-sets, and adds new ones, to expose Office processes to unprecedented extensibility.
Office is extended through the Office Business Application, and its industry-specific toolset, the Reference Application Pack. Of these, Microsoft evangelist Mike Walker says: “By exposing OBAs and the MOSS services as autonomous composite applications [...] OBAs surface all the hard work that SOA architects have been striving to expose.” See OBAs Deliver SOA to the People
Service oriented software is a buzzword as well as a true and important paradigm shift: IT and business people have to be careful not to get carried away by the sense of panacea. SOA is architecture, which by its very nature is one of the preliminary points of carefulness in any scheme, right alongside strategy. In a somewhat confused development landscape, Microsoft brings a stable implementation of the architecture into play, with established governance protocols, which are crucial.
“SOA projects without governance can result in chaotic systems where no one knows exactly how Services are being consumed or exposed within the organization. Businesses hate chaos, and they will quickly put an end to chaotic SOA efforts” – Quantity is No Measure of Maturity
There is some comment that the OBA solution is more geared to smaller business than the enterprise, and that it may not serve the robust scale of a large company. It becomes fair to ask, what is the enterprise scale nowadays? No matter how extensive the network, the enterprise scale seems to be reducing to one, the individual knowledge worker. All systems development is pointing to this end.
Top-down implementations of software and protocol show high failure rates, and glaring holes in adoption – think CRM. Bottom-up, collaborative events show greater gain to any enterprise geared to harvest the product.
No matter the size of the corporation, an individual Excel application is likely to be found on every desktop. The OBA allows all these islands to communicate and share data, and to mash together in innovative and company-specific ways. Thus the statement of increased business intelligence.
As we see with Clarify users experiencing Dovetail CRM for the first time, it will feel like magic to the Office users when their familiar Word or Excel interface suddenly reveals a host of breathtaking new functions, custom-geared to their jobs and departments and companies.