IBM Extends SOA Influence with Series of Announcements

Recently, IBM announced its latest SOA and BPM-related new product and service releases, which are centered around what IBM calls Smart SOA™. Smart SOA is a term that IBM is using to describe IBM’s approach to using SOA to power the enterprise and create smarter business outcomes. IBM started using the “Smart SOA” in the fall of 2007 and believes that now, one year later, it’s been able to refine the message and marshal its product lines behind the message to deliver (what it calls) a “true integrated and consumable technology platform” for enterprise customers.

According to IBM, those customers have not been idle in the past several years, with more than 7,000 of them successfully launching some type of SOA project, and a number of them well into significant SOA projects. IBM numbers reveal that 61% of IBM customers define themselves as being at the foundational, or starting level of SOA adoption, another 29% have extended into end-to-end SOA projects, and 11% define themselves as being involved in transformational SOA that involves a dynamic enterprise mindset.

Among the core announcements that IBM has included in its Smart SOA™ event are the following:

• IBM announced its new SmartBusiness INSights to help clients start down the SOA path by identifying where the most opportunities for success lie within their organization. These are an actionable set of guidance and approaches around core, industry-focused business processes that will help the client identify the process and describe how SOA can help them achieve their goals. SmartBusiness INSights exist for a number of industries, including banking, insurance, and healthcare.

• Enhancements to IBM’s CBMSOMA Method, an integrated methodology that connects business strategy to services and focuses on componentization from a business method and technical method, threading a path together from strategy to realization. According to IBM, this has been extremely well-received and many customers have adopted this as a reliable way to manage their SOA deployments.

• Industry Solutions and Frameworks – IBM is increasing its building frameworks for SOA to nine, including three new entries: Integrated Information for Chemical & Petroleum; Network Centric Operations for Defense & Public Safety; and Product Development Integration. The frameworks reflect key industry processes and consist of pre-built industry components built on IBM Smart SOA™ foundation. The frameworks leverage industry and technology open standards.

• Key Agility Indicators are benchmarks that IBM has created from more than 16,000 engagements through Global Services. IBM believes that KPI’s are no longer enough to identify the agility necessary for today’s business. The company has over 300 Key Agility Indicators that span processes like supply chain, IT, human resources. All of these are now embedded into WebSphere Business Modeler & Monitor to provide additional content to help customers rapidly align their monitoring with the key agility indicators in their industry.

• In the BPM arena, in addition to several enhancements to IBM’s existing BPM platform, the company announced The Business space, a new capability that is delivered in many of its products, creating a unified user interface. It is a combination of Lotus mash-up technology and the world of BPM. Through Business space, users can customize their workspace by role. This is integrated across multiple IBM products to create a customizable and flexible user interface that retains a uniform consistency to align all stakeholders to the business process goals and objectives.

• Also new in the BPM arena is the BPM Healthcheck Services, designed to identify current strengths and weaknesses, provide a diagnostic BPM report, and create a strategic roadmap for BPM.

• IBM has created a number of enhancements to its entire SOA platform that tie in with the Smart SOA™ brand, including tools both web-based and traditional that help customers choose a path for SOA – taking a closer look at their business priorities, identifying a project, develop an idea of the ROI they might want to achieve, and when ready graduate to a complete SOA assessment with Global Services. IBM stressed in the announcements that it wants customers to find the right “on ramp” to SOA and therefore drive their success.

To further establish itself as the renowned leader in SOA, IBM is launching a global road show designed to display some of the successes its customers have seen using its platform for SOA. The IBM Smart SOA™ World Tour visits 100 cities in 10 days during the month of October 2008, and includes 100 customers telling their SOA success stories, designed to meet the current needs of that locality. The events will include various roundtable discussions and seminars targeted at all levels of the SOA workforce, from line-of-business down to developer.

The Upside Uptake
The quantity of individual announcements that accompanied this market update is extensive. While there are too many to cover in detail here, we would like to add some analysis to IBM’s overall SOA strategy and where BPM fits into the picture. Clearly, IBM is demonstrating with this update that it is firmly planted in the SOA world. The company has been very successful in engaging customers to adopt SOA-based projects and gain business benefits from those early endeavors. The fact that the majority of IBM’s customers are still in the “foundational SOA” stage is indicative of the larger enterprise IT market as a whole as well as the level of complexity that exists with such an ambitious goal as SOA adoption. One of the most important components of this announcement in our eyes is the acknowledgment by IBM that not all businesses are created equal, and therefore creating a variety of “on ramps” for businesses to approach SOA adoption is critical to conversion.

BPM plays a critical role to IBM in the entire advancement of Smart SOA™. The BPM products and solutions that IBM offers are often an opportune first introduction into SOA for many companies because they blend the measurable, results-focused deliverables of a BPM project while building the SOA foundation that IBM advocates. Upside Research believes that building a robust, enterprise-scale SOA foundation is a key to creating a powerful BPM solution.

Much about the BPM announcements from IBM centered on “taming the chaos through business process management” and the product enhancements were about increased business event management, transactional capabilities, and business process optimization. Upside Research believes this reflects the current objectives in the market to optimize key business processes for smarter business outcomes, and again this feeds into IBM’s Smart SOA™ platform. The newly announced Business Space is a clear indication of not only how central IBM holds BPM to its overall platform, but also how IBM is reading the market and trying to deliver an interface for BPM (and SOA) that is more in line with how the majority of its customers work.

With these announcements, one of the themes that was evident was IBM’s awareness of how its core customers are changing and how IBM is keeping pace to meet market demands. The staid notion of the Fortune 500 is one of the past, especially with recent financial market volatility. Today’s company needs to be as agile as possible, and there is no guarantee that the winner today will be holding the trophy next year. Therefore, reading its customer base is a critical component of IBM’s success, and IBM seems to be listening. There is heavy focus by IBM on “Green” technology initiatives, as they relate to SOA in this instance. Also, the notion of creating the “business space” as a parallel to the omnipotent My Space generation is a nod toward the non-traditional ways that technology is being consumed by business and personal users. Upside Research is curious to see how this plays out in the business world, but applauds IBM for thinking outside the box to embrace new paradigms.


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