Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Does BI Go Together With SOA, or Should They be Considered Separate Projects?

As I ponder this question of whether SOA and BI go together or not, I am reminded of a concept I learned during my undergraduate studies about process control. Fundamentally, there are two types of processes: Open loop and Closed loop. Open loop processes are those in which the process executes from start to finish based only on the inputs to the process. In contrast, closed loop processes not only take into account the process inputs but continuously observe the process outputs and make dynamic adjustments aimed at improving process efficiency, correcting errors, or both.

As we already know, SOA is an architectural style that strives for business and IT alignment. SOA by itself is an open loop process because it achieves this alignment based only on the current business state and lacks the feedback mechanism to constantly ensure and optimize this alignment once it has been achieved. That is where BI fits in. BI is the broad category of applications and technologies that gather, store, analyze, and provide access to data aimed at helping the enterprise make better business decisions. These “better” decisions are what “close” the open loop SOA implementation by providing the feedback to ensure the continuous alignment between the business and IT. Click here to see the same concept pictorially.

So, although SOA and BI are fundamentally different, they can be very effective together since they both ultimately strive for business process efficiency, albeit in their own way. Now whether they are implemented together in the same program, as separate projects, or as subprojects of one project is purely an implementation decision that each organization must make for itself based on its individual capabilities.

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