Introducing SOA's Latest Role Models
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 12, 2010
The insurance industry's work with SOA (service oriented architecture) dominated a new report published by ComputerWorld's John Webster. Webster cites two insurance company implementations as examples of SOA reaching a new stage of maturity – moving past the coding and bits and bytes and being applied to address real business problems.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. maintains a service oriented architecture with about 40 services, including distribution management, premium collections, customer information management, new business and underwriting. "These services integrate applications across business units, each of which markets different products. Instead of replacing an existing application wholesale, business units select an appropriate combination from the company's array of shared services," Kinam-Peter Kim, manager of enterprise SOA at MassMutual, is quoted as saying.
Cigna Corp. has been working with SOA approaches for about a decade, and eventually applied it to enterprise-wide systems such as call centers and customer relationship management software. Services and data are shared and reused between business units. "We built out the existing hardware and software infrastructure, and now there are pieces of SOA in nearly every mission-critical application," according to Stephen Bergeron, senior director of architecture at Cigna.
The common denominator for both MassMutual and Cigna is that their SOA infrastructures are designed from a business perspective, and not for technical optimization – though that may have been a benefit as well. And, just as importantly, the SOAs reach across all business units, and are intended as a joint effort that stretches across departmental walls and silos.
There's been a lot of debate across the information technology space as to whether service reuse should be a goal of SOA, and whether it even pays off for companies. For these two insurance company, there was no question that reuse resulted in business value – and they clearly are reaping the competitive advantage these more flexible services provide. I like the way MassMutual's Don Carten described the ultimate goal of his company's SOA effort: "To us, SOA is not a technology. It is an approach to modernize our business -- an approach to create an adaptable enterprise."
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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