Q&A: Achieving More Value from Enterprise Applications

From SOA-enabled versions of third-party applications to SOA toolkits, we examine how to gain more value from your enterprise applications.

In conjunction with Enterprise Strategies, AberdeenGroup recently released a Benchmark Report on how to gain more value from your enterprise applications. It looks at everything from SOA-enabled versions of third-party applications to SOA toolkits.

An executive summary of the report has been posted at http://info.101com.com/default.aspx?id=26108. A full (and free) version of the report is available from http://info.101com.com/default.aspx?id=26678 (e-mail address required).

We spoke with the author of the research, Peter Kastner, about the research and its key findings.

What are some of the IT trends that lead to this study?

One reason It isn’t as agile as it should be is due to the poor integration between applications. For example, business process management isn’t integrated well with the rest of IT. There are siloed applications connected with the software equivalent of chewing gum and baling wire.

The silos were never designed for cross-application communications, and it is expensive to re-plumb the IT infrastructure. In fact, we found that those surveyed complain that they can’t be flexible when integrating business processes, and the costs of this lead to trade-offs that, in turn, prevent yet other, important investments in IT. They get behinder and behinder.

All this has led to serious end-user dissatisfaction. More than half of the enterprises surveyed report they are unhappy with the ROI of the investment in enterprise applications.

What is IT doing about the problem?

Some are focusing on best-of-breed functionality in applications they install. Otherws are looking into business intelligence capabilities. Service-oriented architectures are also a popular approach. No matter what the approach, the goals are the same: correct the break-fix cycle that has been hounding IT for over a decade.

SOA is definitely a hot trend that IT managers and staff are looking at.

There have been few desirable approaches (and even fewer actual solutions) prior to today. SOA technologies such as Web services and open middleware are seen by over two-thirds of our survey’s respondents as the means of improving enterprise application integration. Whether looking at SOA-enabled versions of their current applications or an SOA toolset (based on industry standards), it’s clear that IT has paid attention to SOA.

In fact, some IT shops think you can have it both ways. ERP is of particular interest—some SOA buyers believe they can upgrade to the SOA versions of their ERP applications and then use the result as their SOA toolset.

Isn’t that dangerous?

Yes, it is, and we warn against that approach in our report.

What recommendations do you make in this report about SOA?

There are three. First, we believe it is important for companies to look at SOA-enabled versions of the software applications they use. Typically, third-party applications offer an economical means of getting data into and out of applications, particularly ERP applications.

But don’t stop there. We also recommend that not all third-party applications may be suitable. We suggest that IT looks keeps looking for an enterprise-quality SOA toolset.

SOA takes planning, lest IT fall into what we call an “accidental architecture.” If IT takes a project-by-project approach to implementing SOA, they must pay particular attention to the SOA infrastructure and tools they pick. We offer three key considerations for IT: cross-platform, cross-process, and cross-application capabilities.

About the Author

Peter S. Kastner is research vice president and co-founder, enterprise integration research at AberdeenGroup, Inc. He conducts research in the integration of information technology across and among enterprises and their customers and employees.