6: Applying SOA to Various Industries

The author provides a number of anecdotes about the ways in which SOA has been used within certain sectors.


The U.S. Department of Defense has launched a number of initiatives to modernize information management towards coordinating and sharing resources among the various organizations it administers.

In particular, the intelligence community has undergone a significant transformation since 9-11, when the lack of coordination among agencies (and in fact competition among them) was cited as a contributing condition. SOA has been leveraged as a method for bridging the caps among the silos and unfreezing information, enabling agents to access data regardless of what agency "owns" it. Data formats have been standardized and service developed to gather and process information from the various sources, resulting in greater agility and predictive capabilities.

SOA has helped improve the quality of military training. Services have been developed to link together multiple simulators, such that soldiers can train to work as a team in a mission exercise, rather than each having an individual combat simulation. Data standardization and service architecture have also been used to bring together intelligence from various systems, previously operated in isolation, to give field commanders a dashboard view of the battlefield.


Great strides have been made in SOA in the financial sector, largely due to the similar nature of the information and tasks within the industry, their interconnected nature, regulatory intrusion, and the widespread recognition of a need to upgrade from legacy systems in recent years.

In the banking and investment industries, deregulation enabled firms to offer a wider range of services (for example, banks were previously prohibited from providing investment services), and whether the extension of operations was effected by growth or acquisition, it resulted in a pressing need for systems integration to facilitate the movement of client funds between business units, and innovative firms have taken the paradigm further than mere funds transfer to provide services in an interactive manner. Add to this the use of the Internet by clients to track their funds, which created a need for seamless and real-time integration.

The insurance industry has also been an early adopter of SOA, to coordinate the sophisticated web of financial transactions that occur (primarily to generate profit on premiums that are held in reserve to make future claim payments). Coordination of financial information and claims data has also increased the effectiveness of fraud detection and helped to provide better customer service. Integration with external firms (namely, the medical industry for health insurance claims processing) and the need to quickly comply with changing regulations (insurance is regulated at the state level rather than federal) have presented problems that SOA has been leveraged to solve.


The media sector has seen significant transformation in the past few decades, as outlets that were once independently operated (a television station, radio station, newspaper, magazine, and Web site) are consolidating and recognizing the need to pool and share resources.

It also stands to note that audiovisual resources, previously archived in tape libraries that were largely inaccessible, are now gone digital, resulting in a massive amount of digital assets that must be managed.


Retailers (and others who have entered into the retail business) have long struggled with the integration of their traditional channels with the digital medium. SOA has enabled firms to integrate order taking and processing and the handling of payments for their various channels, and better integrate their operations with suppliers for inventory management. The author also mentions the array of payment options in the online medium (credit, debit, gift cards, e-checks, online systems, etc.) as an area in which SOA has been instrumental, as each method of payment has a unique workflow, security requirements, restrictions, and user interface.


Telecommunications companies have likewise leveraged SOA to manage the array of services offered to customers (phone, mobile, internet, cable, wireless, etc. - each with a plethora of options, features, and plans), some of which use systems that are decades old. AS with financial services companies, the industry recognized a need for its customers to have seamless service across the various devices and media. This was compounded by the frequency of mergers and acquisitions among large companies at the turn of the millennium.


Society has become increasingly mobile (for example, there were far more airline passengers in the 1990's than in the 1970's) and the seemingly simple task of moving a person from one location to another requires orchestration of a number of different companies, under the increasingly demanding scrutiny of regulators.

In the airline industry, each firm operates thousands of flights per day, which means coordinating with employees in multiple locations, a plethora of vendors and service companies, the airports, and the FAA. The "standard" operations are highly complex, and the complexity is compounded by largely unpredictable factors (weather delays, security alerts, etc.) SOA has been instrumental in orchestrating these phenomena, resulting in greater efficiency and cost savings.

The rail industry suffers from many of the same complexities: a rail provider operates services by hauling cars owned by customers, to stations that are independently managed, on rails that are used by their competitors. The coordination of rail freight adds complexity, in that operations must be coordinated with freight owners and independent shippers.


The author suggests that the application of SOA to other sections can be derived by considering the case studies in other industries where it has been more heavily deployed. While a company may be in a different sector, chances are that the core operations it performs are the same as in other industries (a company may not be in retail, but it serves customers who make payments; it may not be in transportation, but it needs to coordinate the travel of a sales department, etc.)