Building from the front to back

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Building from the front to the backā€¦Most discussions about service-oriented architecture (SOA) concentrate on back-end issues, such as middleware and integration. Such a healthy debate fails to recognise one key concern - your users will not make the most of SOA if they cannot access information.

Unfortunately, a failure to recognise the importance of the front-end is not confined to industry debate and many SOA implementations actually focus on the back-end, rather than the user interface.

The result? Initiatives are created with the technology in-mind, rather than concentrating on the demands of the user. And in such circumstances, your SOA system will not be flexible enough to meet future changes in demand.

Posthumous alterations can be complicated and have a serious impact on your business. So focus on a number of key issues as you develop your front-end: interaction, compliance and standards.

Have a strong awareness of how users interact because new forms of presentation are likely to be crucial to your SOA strategy. Mash-up applications, for example, can allow business users to create new and useful combinations of information and researcher Forrester estimates spending on mash-ups will reach $700m a year by 2013.

You will also need to prioritise governance. Analyst Butler Group recently suggested that failure to address business rules and security policies at the design stage can lead to complex change management at a later stage.

Finally, think about the types of formats and frameworks you will use to help guarantee a top-quality user interface. Make the wrong choices at an early stage and you could restrict further development opportunities at the front-end.

This three pronged approach shows that sometimes it makes sense to concentrate on the presentation details before you look at the foundations. Such a grounded approach to service-orientation can ensure the demands of users are met.

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