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SOA, SaaS models pair up nicely for Bosley Medical

Sarah Varney, Technology Editor
Psst. While you're batting around the general concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA) with the CEO and the CFO, there's a good chance it's already working nicely downstairs in the data center

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using a federation of applications licensed via Software as a Service (Saas).

Midmarket companies are moving quickly to incorporate the fundamentals of SOA, a loosely coupled enterprise architecture pattern that allows for applications to be easily modified, integrated and reused.

SaaS, a software delivery model, is also being eagerly adopted by midmarket organizations and is finding a niche within SOA deployments. The SOA focus on a business function, such as general ledger, makes the SaaS model a good fit. For example, a company might pay a monthly fee for a general ledger application to a SaaS vendor instead of customizing or adding on to a legacy system such as ERP. Software as a Service modules plugged into middleware on the back end of mission-critical systems simplifies the "service" focus.

More on this subject
The Real Niel: SOA has promise

SOA: A Midsized Manufacturer's Framework for Growth
Mark Davenport, IT director at Bosley Medical, a hair restoration company based in Beverly Hills, Calif., uses a customer relationship management (CRM) tool from Siebel Systems Inc. but recently went to a SaaS vendor for the scheduling module it needed. The reason? It fit the SOA model the company had already decided to use.

"SOA is a philosophy and a methodology abstracting services and applications to provide more flexibility and greater ROI on your existing investments," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC, a technology consulting firm in Nashua, N.H.

According to a 2007 study authored by Frank Kenney, managing director at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., 50% of new mission-critical operational applications and business processes were designed that year around SOA. The study predicted the number will jump to 80% by 2010.

Managing SOA long term
There's no question that SOA can result in higher ROI and less legacy baggage, but managing all the data streams coming in will definitely present a challenge in the future.

Bringing all these sources of information together, whether they're from SaaS vendors, mashups, supply chain management applications etc., will be crucial. Ideally, SOA puts into place the governance piece of this, noted Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC, a technology consulting firm in Nashua, N.H. Rule-based policies could meld or separate data sources according to the needs of the business. Making sure those 'recipes' for data are useful is vital. But making sure that data streams go to the appropriate users -- the governance side of the coin -- will also be an important part of the SOA management function.

"You don't want to create new silos [of information]. The next piece of the puzzle will be figuring out "how to bring them together," Gardner said.

-- Sarah Varney

The drive to partition business processes into atomic functions is the key to SOA, according to Stephen Kerr, management consultant at PA Consulting Group in New York. Kerr, who is based in Princeton, N.J., focuses on the application

Scheduling is the bedrock application for Bosley Medical. The company, which has 20 surgical offices around the country, uses scheduling for marketing purposes as well as for setting up hair transplant procedures.

Bosley looked at Siebel's scheduling module, but tweaking it to fit the company's needs would have been too expensive. Instead, Davenport and his colleague Jesus Arriaga decided to hire TimeTrade Systems Inc., a SaaS vendor with a scheduling module that closely suited Bosley Medical's needs.

For about $50,000, the SaaS vendor built an open software bus that links to the Siebel API on one end and to the TimeTrade application via XML on the other. The bus gives Bosley the flexibility to integrate any SaaS application with its Siebel CRM software.

"Configuring TimeTrade was simple. It required zero customization. It worked right out of the box and it does exactly what we need for the business," Davenport said.

Davenport and Arriaga didn't necessarily set out to use SOA. "But coincidentally, that's the way we're structuring things around here. We stepped away from the technology at the beginning, and came up with a set of business processes that we compartmentalized," Davenport explained.

We're keeping FedEx in business right now.
Mark Davenport
CIOBosley Medical
In the future, Davenport plans to use the same method to replace the sales force automation module within Siebel with a SaaS vendor. "They [Siebel] have a module, but it's not quite right. We already have the middleware interface to link to other resources," he noted.

Electronic medical records (EMRs) is another area where this reusable bus will save Bosley Medical time and money. The records privacy portion of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act pertains to the transmission of medical records, and that's where Davenport's issue lies.

"We're keeping FedEx in business right now. We have to securely move these records from place to place. We can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year if we did this digitally instead," he explained.

Davenport hasn't worked out the technical details yet, but the idea is to use the same middleware to reach out to a SaaS vendor to automate most of the EMR process. "With SOA, the idea is to avoid re-creating the wheel every time you need to augment or replace a system," he said. His said his dream is to one day eliminate the use of Siebel's applications altogether and use the SaaS/SOA model instead.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Sarah Varney, Technology Editor


This was first published in July 2008

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