Moving to Business Oriented Architecture

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Tom Knight
Tom Knight
Product Management

It is easy to describe and understand the notion of Business Oriented Architecture (BOA), yet it is still quite hard to achieve. Insurance industry analysts have recently defined the term as an architecture that applies a new level of focus to deliver benefits to your business extending beyond the reach of your service-oriented architecture (SOA). Since BOA is built on top of SOA, the challenge to achieving BOA enablement for insurers still lies in the maturity level of their own SOA. Taking a look at the origin of SOA, and more specifically, looking at how much farther an insurer could take SOA, explains why BOA enablement is easy to describe but still very hard to achieve.

Early in the last decade the talk was about chasing business service maturity curves and identifying the next conceptual plateau of service maturity to conquer. Back then it was all about web services maturity and how the triangle of discovery would bind service requestors and service providers together in a new services-based world.

Then, SOA emerged with its maturity curve. Make no mistake, where your firm was on that curve mattered, along with how you were going to get to the next level—and when. We all remember that pyramid of SOA maturity where the pinnacle was to achieve responsiveness and service collaboration, as well as the ability to manage and measure business service consumption to reach the point of optimization. It was all easy to understand and admire, but clearly hard to truly achieve … is your firm there yet? Did you stop pursuing SOA before you really saw the benefits?

Another prerequisite to reach an enabled BOA includes overcoming the difficulty of Low Coupling and High Cohesion (LC/HC) transaction level inside your systems. Arguably, the basis of all the SOA talk in the first place, today this concept is as easy to describe and understand as the usefulness of interchangeable parts in manufactured goods. But to find core insurance Policy, Claims and Billing applications that implement low coupling that deliver highly cohesive solutions is difficult. When the dust settled on this BOA impediment, roughly 8 forms of coupling and 7 forms of cohesion had been classified, defined, and argued about. Yet another maturity curve was established to measure the degree to which a firm’s coupling was low and its cohesion was high. Not achieving LC/HC inside core solutions closes the door on the effectiveness of a firm’s BOA enablement strategy brought about by the commensurate dependency hell, scattered and embedded business rules, and transaction processing that can’t alter its own flow as it executes.

Nearly all organizations still operate with silos and monolithic core systems just on the other side of their services integration layer; however, most have embarked on the SOA path with confidence, having taken as many tactical steps in the right direction as possible. Nearly all have a modernization plan that pulls in layer on top of layer of workflow, mediation, and process flow tools, all implemented to align a services layer with the appearance of BOA enablement.

But there is a hard stop at the insurance application doorstep because just behind the services layer of the SOA infrastructure rests an immovable object, the core Customer, Policy, Claims, or Billing system whose anatomy will not allow a Business Oriented Architecture to interact with it on a fine-grained level.

Where is your firm in its 5-year plan to achieve modernization with a BOA target? Is your firm stopped in its tracks at this point? A prerequisite of BOA enablement is a true SOA-based application stack, top to bottom. Now insurance application-level SOA has emerged with architecture, technology, and real tools to deliver on the promise of BOA enablement. To achieve this new paradigm means that business services can finally be their own, freestanding, full SOA components with real transaction boundaries and schema-based persistence layers.

The core insurance monolith is gone—in this realm applications and systems with boundaries that hold you back are not there. This BOA-enabled ecosystem delivers sets of atomic services with contracts and definitions, underlying business logic, and persistence layers. The solution is now a series of individual services, siblings if you will, that deliver their part of the insurance business value in a composed business flow.

When you deliver on this target with your Customer, Policy, Claims, or Billing solutions, you have enabled your firm to achieve a true Business Oriented Architecture.

Achieving BOA means your modernization plan should include implementing application-level SOA solutions for Customer, Policy, Billing, and Claims. To get there will take a partner with deep insurance experience and know-how along with a proven track record of success in building and delivering insurance solutions. But that’s not enough … it also takes a partner that has made the strategic investment to deliver application-level SOA and has used proven technologies to get there.

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Tom, I agree with your

Tom, I agree with your thoughts! SOA technology has removed the monolith of a PAS system or single vendor that owns any Insurance Company IT Environment. It is important for companies on both side of the Vendor/Client line to understand they have to be the best at what they do to compete in there specific area of expertise. I am choosing multiple vendors to support my IS shop based off their expertise and ability to deliver which is what makes SOA so powerful! Paul Martinsen VP-CIO, National Western Life Insurance