When I hear from a vendor about massive reductions in processing time or cost savings associated with the use of its products, I must confess to getting deeply suspicious.
This is because when I dig a little deeper, the trumpeted project often turns out to be little more than a proof-of-concept or otherwise small scale solution. Therefore, I was surprised to hear just such a claim when I recently spoke with Dr Peter Kurpick, Chief Product Officer of Software AG, about their SOA straegy and the business strategy and that the system in question was in fact a very significant one (the announcement of which I somehow missed earlier this year).
The project for UKvisas (the national agency responsible for issuing visitor visas) integrates multiple information sources to quickly filter out individuals who should be denied entry to the UK for various reasons. (Using SOA to integrate multiple data sources owned by multiple agencies is a SOA-pattern which I have come across in a number of projects.)
In this case, the implementation (built on Software AG’s products) has reduced processing times from over 2 days to less than 30 minutes. It is an excellent example of how government is successfully using SOA to target specific and high value problems: As well as hugely reducing the processing time, there is also a very tangible benefit as each deportation (in effect a failure to screen out the visitor at time of entry) costs £11,000 .
What is encouraging is that governments seem to be learning from its mistakes of a few years back when it spent 100s of millions on integration projects that fell apart. This project appears to suggest that the UK government has both understood how to use SOA to extract very measurable benefits and how to focus on specific business objectives instead of getting lost in never ending programmes which can never deliver. To do this requires sophistication about how SOA should be adopted by your organisation and the central role of SOA governance (both key themes of Software AG’s SOA strategy).
It is also a good example of how SOA (as well as BPM) can provide as much benefit from reduction in the risk of error as it does from efficiency improvement. This is important for anybody wishing to justify an investment in SOA: Unlike SOA benefits such as agility or even reuse which are hard to measure and can have a long lead time to pay-back, the value of reducing errors can be calculated easily as error rates are often already tracked in organisations and the cost of recovery from an error is often very significant.