Improving functionality for your users

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While the benefits of a service-oriented back-end are well rehearsed, less attention is paid to the presentation layer and the creation of a user-friendly front-end.

For IT leaders dabbling with SOA, one question remains crucial: how can you improve functionality for users and create an intuitive method for data access?

Your task is unlikely to be simple. After all, the potential benefits of SOA can be a difficult nettle for business leaders to grasp, never mind technologists.

So, concentrate on front-end portal and dashboard technology - because it is a stand that is likely to help you convince non-believers.

Portals are best viewed as the presentation layer for users looking to access service-oriented enterprise applications.

Dashboards, on the other hand, can be integrated with an SOA approach to provide increased business intelligence. A dashboard - which is usually set in a portal environment - can provide visibility into previously unavailable information by combining unconnected systems.

Beyond simply providing a usable front-end service, an initial portal-based project can demonstrate how an SOA approach can help the business make use of existing resources and give users improved access to information.

Analyst CMS Watch raises some key concerns, notably suggesting that some vendors sell enterprise portals that only run on top of their own SOA software – an approach which seems to contradict the inherent aim of loosely coupled software.

SOA portals and dashboards need to flexible, so users can create new applications from existing components.

Look for a provider that priorities intuition and allows the business to fully customise the front-end.

Then as customer demands for services change, you will be able to really provide a user interface that evolves over time.

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