I have a little confession to make, one of many; it is that I maintain a simplistic view of business. In my simple view, a business starts as an idea or vision, depending on your Weltanschauung, and this idea articulates some value (services or products) that the business will provide to the community – Business (B) or Consumer (C). It is vital to mention that “service” in this context is an abstraction and has nothing to do with technology. These services will often require some input, manipulation and output, which will be conducted by humans together with some machinery. The complement of input, manipulation and output, when formalised is sometimes referred to as a standard operating procedure (SOP) or process.
Now for the nexus…
For the business idea/vision to become a reality, there will need to be some transformations in the real world. These transformations will start from nothing, and incrementally deliver concrete things that advance the business towards the realisation of the vision. Each transformation is realised by way of projects, and the projects may identify some opportunities for automation of the SOPs/processes mentioned above. Automation of an SOP would be by way of implementation as one or more technological services.
The SOA for me therefore should include a focus on this initial vision and how it filters down through the transformation programmes and/or projects, down to the individual services, as well as the portfolio/complement of all services that serve the business. My simplistic view is that there is a minimum set of core technological services that are needed to support a particular genre of business. That this magic complement can be expressed in a generic form that is not tied to the name/identity of the business that it serves.
To achieve this, the SOA perspective needs to be different: services should be conceptualised with the perspective of an agnostic/outsider. The architect should try to see themselves as a third party providing that service to businesses in general and not to the organisation in particular. This perspective should also be broad enough to identify services that are best factored out, and those that can be profitably re-packaged into a higher value offering.
The end goal being the discovery and clear articulation of the magic complement of services that supports the parent business. However, a delightful side-effect should be the realisation of a platform that can, in part or whole, serve other businesses of the same genre or in the same sector. I am of the opinion, simplistic I agree, that often we are too timid or parochial in our view of solutions. There are not so many unique reference architectures out there, and in the same sector one will encounter so many different implementations even among very similar businesses. I believe we can do better.