How does service-orientation, an architectural style, help a business to innovate and grow?
To many, SOA is just a technology concept – something of minor importance to a product manager or “the business” to actually grow the business. This could not be further from the truth! Let me explain…
Let us begin by exploring the “Adaptive Cycle” model pioneered by Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling. In this model, the various lifecycle phases (reorganization, exploitation, release, and conservation) of a system are outlined. Note, that in the model, a system can be anything such as a natural ecological system (e.g. a forest), a human system, or an automated information system such as a CRM.
There are three major factors in the model (crudely summarized below):
- Capital – the value or profit of a system
- Resilience – the ability to renew into something of greater value (i.e. innovate) – not just a return to normal.
- Connectedness – the interdependencies and complexity of the elements in a system
A key point: As the green part of the model shows, innovation builds upon innovation in the exploitation phase and therefore the capital (or value/profit) increases. The connectedness, however, also increases and as a result the resilience (or ability to innovate) decreases. In other words, a critical mass of yesterday’s and today’s innovations will slow down tomorrow’s innovation. Eventually, a system becomes so “connected” that all resiliency is lost, bringing innovation to a halt, and therefore the system must be released (or destroyed) and re-reorganized.
We return to the original question – How does SOA support innovation? In the context of the Adaptive Cycle model, an effective SOA enables HIGH capital (value) and resilience (innovation) and LOW connectedness. The slope of the green line becomes positivley steeper and the length longer. In other words, there are LONGER cycles of growth and more frequent innovations due to the low “connectedness” of the elements in the system.
But what does a low level of “connectedness” really mean? It means things are loosely connected – or as a Technical Architect would say – “loosely coupled” – and this is a key foundational principle of SOA.
Stay tuned for part II – as we define specific characteristics of a “loosely coupled” system.