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Microservices Expo: Article

SOA Secures Enterprise-Grade Social Networking

Crossing over into the corporate boardroom

Social networking – not a new idea for the twenty-something generation – but an idea that has finally crossed over into the corporate boardroom thanks to customer demand and open standards technologies built on service-oriented architectures (SOA).

With 20% of employees at large companies now contributing to blogs, social networks, Wikis, and other Web 2.0 services (according to IDC in a survey of 197 workers), the trend is no surprise, with companies finding ways to capitalize on this activity with their own in-house social networks.

Such activities have grown, in part, due to an awareness of the competitive advantages organizations can gain by incorporating more interactive and context-aware collaboration capabilities. These capabilities have originated from consumer-led Internet activities, such as Wikipedia, Google Search, and Amazon.

Business leaders understand the importance of creating a climate for innovation. Today, more than ever, businesses need to foster innovative ideas to allow organizations to rapidly respond to new opportunities and competitive threats. SOA is delivering business benefits across a variety of industries, driving closer alignment to business objectives by enabling IT flexibility on standards-based platforms with the role-based delivery of composite, or “mashup,” applications.

Web 2.0 capabilities are transforming the Internet, combining content, collaboration, and user experiences to dynamic platforms for social interaction. By merging the advantages of service-oriented architectures with Web 2.0 capabilities, organizations can build and extend portal solutions that help attain new levels of business performance, agility, and innovation.

IBM saw the interest in building social networking features for the enterprise grow exponentially by their customers who wanted, essentially, a secure way for employees to chat, swap files, locate expertise, and form knowledge-based communities and work teams behind the firewall – all in the context of the individual user’s role and area of responsibility.

By seamlessly incorporating Web 2.0-enabling technologies, organizations move beyond the constraints of packaged applications and fixed processes. Real-time communication, collaborative document authoring through wikis and blogs, and mashup capabilities via a portal can securely combine corporate data stores and situational, context-specific access to relevant information, people, and processes inside and outside the firewall.

For example, to gain further insight into production performance, a manufacturing executive can benefit from a portal-based composite dashboard that aggregates key performance data via SOA from different systems and, in real-time, integrates the individuals associated with those processes via collaboration services. As such, it can alert the executive to potential problem conditions, such as an excessive defect rate at a plant, and via the Portal’s role-based contextual integration services automatically link in the individuals able to respond and resolve those issues. One way the executive could act to address the problem would be to send an e-mail to the plant manager seeking more information. Another much more effective approach would be to identify if the plant manager was online, and, if so, initiate a real-time chat and perhaps immediately create a team room with specifically assigned members, tasks, and activities to identify experts and review best quality practices from better performing plants and share and leverage their performance success. It’s the ability to work, collaborate, and take action in context that is so powerful.

The end result is that organizations can drive innovation through collaboration and social networking, allowing business people to quickly connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs. With more individuals having the opportunity to join, participate, and connect with expertise, they can apply new knowledge faster, contributing to new thinking, information sharing, and decision making.

By encouraging employees to form expertise and interest-based networks, companies can better manage legacy knowledge, as well as their employees’ skills and their professional networks. For the bottom line, however, productivity enhancements are the real appeal.

More Stories By Larry Bowden

Larry Bowden has over two decades of experience at IBM helping customers exploit the opportunities provided by information technologies. He currently is vice president, portals and Web interaction services, where he is responsible for the development and delivery of portal-based products and solutions to meet customer needs. He is based in the Silicon Valley.

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