Friday, May 16, 2008

Dynamic documents as two-way end points help bind people and processes to SOA

Read the full paper. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: JustSystems North America.

Making services oriented architecture (SOA) a fixture across larger swaths of enterprise IT and business processes has grown into a top goal. Finding additional innovation to amplify a SOA's value is therefore always welcome.

A separate but related trend in the field, of implementing managed XML-coupled dynamic documents via authoring and content governance, offers just such a high-impact SOA-enhancing value. Dynamic documents provide end points for SOA-delivered content and data, and deliver it into the formats and often required interfaces people -- meaning workers and managers -- need. Dynamic documents also offer many values around ease of language localization, automation of feed-delivered data, and centralized control over highly decentralized content.

Legions of those in the world that actually get things done -- the line of business personnel that must apply the digital world to the physical world -- are surrounded by documents. Documents, from spreadsheets to maintenance manuals, are the historical means through which people manage information. IT systems use documents to reach beyond their glass screens.

IT has not done away with documents, and it is not likely to. People at the end points of SOA-driven business activities will remain sort of like analog-to-digital converters, as well as digital-to-analog converters. They interface between SOAs and the real world, with documents as a bridge. We all do. And our mainstay interfaces consist mostly of static documents ... but increasingly those will be XML-enabled dynamic documents. How convenient!

That's why I found it fascinating to take on a research project to plumb the depths of how SOA and dynamic documents come together. The conclusion, contained in this report, is that those enterprises that implement dynamic documents capabilities can significantly leverage those investments by flexibly extending their SOA values out to those document end points.

The XML-enabled documents, in turn, can provide on-ramps and gathering points for more content and data to enrich the SOA activities. [Disclosure: The research report was sponsored by JustSystems North America, which is also a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

In other words, the trends around dynamic documents and the trends around SOA complement each other well. Architects and those departmental managers dealing with document overload and the need for better management, therefore, ought to be talking to each other. They may be able to help each other a lot.

Furthermore, the investments that organizations make in SOA can powerfully augment the value and utility of what they can do with dynamic documents authoring, management, and governance. It's also fascinating to consider how SOA-level governance and policies can play a role in how documents use and access -- down to a finely granular level -- can be managed and automated. Think of it as total process management -- from mainframe to everyman.

The result is that in the near future documents will behave a lot more like traditional applications, while traditional applications can behave more like SOA-driven processes. It's us to up to make the connections come around full circle.

Here are some excerpts from the report:
Combining the productivity enhancements of XML-based structured authoring and document management with the increasingly strategic benefits of SOAs is a next logical step. Embracing dynamic documents as SOA endpoints may also spur faster adoption of SOA principles and infrastructure.

If the accumulated business knowledge of individuals could better interface with services-enabled applications, organizations could combine the best of human experience with the new levels of IT interoperability. Any knowledge or semantic asset that can be identified, tagged, and contextually related to business functions should be made available to SOA composite applications as services.

This combination – SOA and easily authored dynamic documents – empowers line-of-business teams to innovate around how information is accessed, combined and presented. It allows organizations to improve the speed and efficiency of manual and disconnected document-centric processes, and to dramatically improve technology and knowledge transfer across lifecycles and value chains.

As XML dynamically updates data and content across myriad traditional documents, user benefits transcend the former static formats. Users can update documents, while their structure allows many others to access current data. Elevating workplace knowledge and data via the familiarity of documents -- and then extending that information across multiple business processes -- that’s what SOA is all about.

Companies with SOA projects should seek out documents as consumable resources – especially dynamic documents -- and then enlist them as resources for business-process benefit. Combined, SOA and user-friendly documents can substantially improve productivity, refine processes, integrate people and processes, as well as accelerate the financial payback from investments in both dynamic document publishing and SOA infrastructure.
Read the full paper. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: JustSystems North America.