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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why EIM is needed for SOA - and vice versa

I’m starting off 2008 with a post that is touching the two most strategic challenges for enterprises the years to come - how to manage the lifeblood information of an enterprise and how to make it available in a more efficient and flexible manner to the intended users. Or in other words; Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

A basic question is how the concepts of EIM and SOA relate to each other. Gartner has clearly stated that EIM is needed for SOA, and vice versa. In an article at destinationCRM.com, David Newman, a research vice president at Gartner stated the following:

"SOA requires EIM, and EIM requires SOA. Both get to the heart of being able to break down those information silos and making information the number-one asset of the enterprise."
SOA requires EIM because EIM enables SOA. You cannot succeed with SOA without addressing the issues of EIM. But, EIM does not require SOA in the same way, even if it probably will make things easier. You can deal with EIM without transforming the IT landscape. But you will not get the flexibility and cost-efficiency that SOA promises.

The main reason why SOA requires EIM more than vice versa is that EIM primarly deals with the “what” while SOA primarily deals with the “how”. Before you can determine the best way to do things (how), you need to determine what to do. The same goes for EIM and SOA; you first need to know what the consumers need (the information) and what you decide on providing to them before you find out how to provide it (the services).

Brian Wood at SAP Labs seem to share a similar view on the relationship between EIM and SOA that he shares in his post "Enterprise Information Management Is Key to Optimizing Your Enterprise SOA Efforts":

You can't quantify the value of enterprise SOA unless you first know what your strongest value drivers are…//…you still need to develop your EIM capabilities to provide a single, consistent view of all relevant information assets and metrics…//…EIM must be able to provide robust and adaptable access to all relevant, quality-related information in the context of your business processes on one day, and then seamlessly switch to a cost optimization or a customer experience view on the next.
Even without SOA, most decision makers would likely agree on that the issues which are addressed within EIM represent critical challenges for their organizations. Nonetheless, very few take action on them in a holistic and enterprise-wide manner. Dr. Jamshid A. Vayghan at IBM highlights some of the information management issues that need to be addressed from an EIM angle:
A few weeks ago, I spoke at RSM Erasmus university in Rotterdam on enterprise information management and its challenges. To describe the enterprise information challenges, I used the elephant metaphor of reality. I used that metaphore to imply that large enterprises usually do not look at the enterprise information challenges holistically. Some groups within the enterprise act like those blind men and believe that the enterprise information challenges are solved when their local problems are fixed:-). In the talk, I mentioned a number of those local problems. A few of them are:

1. finding the relevant information is difficult. Making things worse, the same group is not usually responsible for structured and unstructured data.
2. lack of clarity on data ownership.
3. each group within the enterprise has its own set of tools and technology.
4. tight coupling between applications and data sources.
5. database issues including lack of standards, data redundancy, and data myopia.
6. lack of common vocabularies for the same subject area
7. disconnect between technical architecture, business processes, and corporate policies
8. existence of information silos, silo mentality, and silo organizations within the enterprise
9. lack of data skills. I believe that our universities do not train the types of skills we need in this area. I will discuss this later separately.

My point was solving these issues in isolation will not solve the enterprise information issues. We need to consider all of them in a holistic manner.
The popularity of SOA makes it an important driver for addressing and dealing with EIM within enterprises. So in this sense, EIM really requires SOA.


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