14 Mar 2016

Centre of Excellence – The Best Way To Manage Your Integration Environment

A SOA Centre of Excellence (CoE), when set up optimally, will make the most of companies’ existing systems and respective features, helping harmonise them with new solution architecture. This saves time and money, and increases efficiency.

As we are a specialist IT integration company, we have seen good, bad and ugly IT integrations. Having a Centre of Excellence in place seems such a no-brainer to us, we’re sometimes surprised that companies are willing to invest fortunes into creating new services or integrations, but are unwilling to put the required governance in place to catalogue and leverage these valuable resources fully.

Reports from Gartner confirm that this short-term approach can have serious consequences. For example, one report warned that Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) projects will fail unless they are tightly managed and audited. They go on to recommend that IT directors establish a dedicated IT integration team to oversee the development of new services.

Made to measure

There are a few ways to structure a CoE – usually depending on the size of the company. At least it would contain an enterprise architect and a business process architect. Between them, they should be familiar with how applications are developed and how business processes work within the organization. Ideally these roles would be internal rather than outsourced because they require intimate knowledge of the company’s inner workings. However sometimes it can be useful to have consultants help set up a CoE to begin with.

Other roles within the CoE can include information security specialists, data modelling and information management specialists, business analysts, IT governance professionals and SOA governance analysts to identify and catalogue software assets that are susceptible to reuse and to align any future demands with the company’s strategy. Roles can be filled temporarily if needed, or in larger companies you could have a permanent team in place.

Among other things, these roles would work together to build a SOA Governance Framework, which relies on a Service Repository which catalogue the services which connect software applications together.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

It can be very unwise to take an approach to wait for something to go wrong before you put steps in place to prevent problems.

1. At some point, you will DEFINITELY need to have an overview of all your system integrations, or services, rather than just an overview of the applications themselves.

Examples of this could include when something goes wrong, when a system has to be added or replaced or when a new service request requires you to understand the knock-on effects on other systems.

2. Having a holistic understanding of your integration environment can and will save you money.  

In our business, we often see companies calling in consultants to develop new services for them. When the consultants investigate, they find existing services which have been developed at great expense, and which could be easily reused. We have even seen an example where two business areas were commissioning similar new services to be developed in parallel. They were about to spend at least double what was necessary.

3. Having a good CoE in operation will save you time. It can take weeks or even months to develop a new service.

We often see companies spending valuable time ‘reinventing the wheel’, when they already have services which can be reused.

4. Having good SOA Governance will ultimately create more independence of software suppliers and consultants.

A great example of this is when you’re thinking about version upgrades, or when you have a business need for a new service / integration.

5. With a CoE, you will have more resilience to integration problems as there is a team which owns the integrations.  

Sometimes whole systems go down just because of a single service. A CoE has them documented and monitored, and is in a position to deal with any problems if they occur. This approach will create internal integration experts, which could also be considered a career advantage to the right person.

6. The devil is in the detail – using disparate vocabulary to describe your terms is a disaster waiting to happen.  

Having a single vocabulary to describe software assets and business terms (aka a Canonical Model) can help promote reuse and improve communication across the whole enterprise, thus saving time and money for future developments.

The Integrella approach to Centre of Excellence

As an expert IT integration company, we offer 2 approaches to helping our customers:

We can help you set up and document your own CoE 


We can set up and run your CoE for you

Either approach would help to reduce the cost of building your own Centre of Excellence by making use of our re-usable artefacts and delivering a service tailored to the specific activities that are required. We have done this numerous times, and we know what works. We provide this service to a number of clients we are able to scale up and down easily, so you will have a tailored approach.

Our service typically includes:

  • Creating best practices and standards.
  • Reviewing existing code across projects and produce a first-cut Integration Design
  • Patterns Document.
  • Designing and building Common Services.
  • Roll out version control procedures
  • Define statements of work / designs for Dev/Ops tools.
  • Define statements of work / designs for required frameworks.
  • Implement error handling framework if not already done.
  • Perform service Quality Assurance (QA).
  • Agree and produce Design QA Guidelines.
  • Agree and produce Design QA Checklists.
  • Agree and produce Code Review and Deployment QA Guidelines.
  • Provision environments.