5 Dec 2010

Improving Operational Processes: Part 3 – Business Integration, Legacy Applications, and “Composite Applications.”

In our last article on improving operational processes, we touched on the topic of legacy applications and how dealing with old or outdated business solutions pose cost and operational problems for many large businesses whose requirements change dramatically over time. It is true that technologies that are classified as legacy applications degrade to the point where they can only handle 40 to 70% of a business’ needed functionality.

As a result, managing legacy applications are clearly related to the discussion of operational processes and how business integration relates to improving operational processes.

Composite Applications Breathe New Life Into Old Solutions

One of the core approaches in Service Oriented Architecture is to “service enable” companies’ existing legacy applications by integrating them into composite applications. Composite applications are constructed by combining multiple existing functions into a new application. Composite applications can be configured from legacy applications, and allow for a great deal of increased flexibility that improves business solutions from the front office on down to critical back office components.

By implementing a composite application, functionality can be integrated, thus making it easier to unplug one system to replace with another. This can be done, for example, by implementing an ESB message-based solution in a canonical message format that can be read by other downstream systems. Middleware systems can be put into place that can provide for multiple canonical formats so that, in the case of a financial sector business solution, trades, payments, assets, etc. that are inputted into a front-end application can be broadcasted via a middleware solution to middle- and back-end components of the solution.

The value of composite applications is that the front-end solution can be easily changed out for a newer solution without needing to replace the entire legacy application structure behind it. As long as the new front-end system can generate the same canonical message, it can be quickly, easily, and cost-effectively integrated into existing applications.

Because of this, companies no longer need be tied into one vendor’s message format, resulting in long-term flexibility.

Another Way That SOA Extends Legacy Applications – Expose Different Pieces of Functionality

Because legacy applications are seen internally by business IT departments as outmoded and obsolete, often times the remaining resource potential of these systems is overlooked in lieu of their current inefficiencies. Through business process management (BPM), however, different pieces of functionality can be exposed and managed in order to increase productivity and automation of tasks.

By using BPM, businesses can effectively orchestrate a flow that connects up existing services from legacy applications and even add new functionality, thus covering 100% of new requirements. A good example of this can be seen in human resources, where the onboarding process can be streamlined so that submitting newly hired employees’ information can automatically generate new profiles, accounts, e-mail addresses, and other HR-related information.

To be sure, all businesses eventually must give in and invest in new business solutions that replace legacy applications. But since implementing new solutions can take a great deal of time and resources, using SOA methods to extend the lifecycle of legacy applications can keep operational process in the front-, middle-, and back-end functioning at the highest level possible, even during the interim process of implementing new solutions.

Figure X: Extending the life of enterprise applications

Interested in hearing more about how business integration can streamline the operational business processes in your own company’s back-, middle-, or front office? Find out more about how Integrella can deliver solutions similar to the ones discussed in this article!

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