SOA, BPM and Mr. Potato Head

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Also posted on: The Holloway Angle

I love quirky analogies that people use to explain major IT concepts and I came across one this week from Chris Read in the PEX network newsletter (Mr Potato Head explains SOA and BPM).  Read had attended a Sydney BP Trends group where the topic being discussed was SOA—what it is and how it works with BPM. Read went looking for a metaphor and came up at the end with “Mr. Potato Head”.

I will quote from Read’s article as to why: “SOA is all about providing flexibility. It’s all about having a modular structure of architecture that is as flexible as the business needs it to be. It is in contrast to the old IT ways of building rigid systems that are slow and costly to change. If we think about Mr Potato Head as our offering to the customer, the business decides what Mr Potato Head looks like (services). Now imagine that each one of Mr Potato Head’s bits (ears, eyes, hats, etc) is a business process. These processes make up the offering or service to the customer. So the business decides what he looks like and IT plug together his individual processes out of their big box of ears, eyes, mouths, etc.”.

It is his ending that I like most “If we look at how this would have worked in the old days the business would have come to IT with their request and IT would have told them that all Mr Potato head’s parts were glued together and that to change their processes they’d have to e.g. cut off an arm, build a new one and glue it on. This would take time, money and a lot of effort.”

What a great analogy, and how true the prognosis of what happens with change if IT hasn’t adopted a service oriented architecture so that service components can be glued together through processes and rules that can be changed by the business as the market changes. Some of you may remember a cartoon about designing a swing showing how different parts of an organisation view the design.