Sunday, August 28, 2005

What can we learn from BA's woes?

I am in San Francisco again and I had ample opportunity to read the Sunday Papers on the way over. Leaving aside the inevitable sinking feeling when you read the same re-written press release for the fifth time, it's a most enjoyable way to spend a flight; there are usually far too many distractions to read even one Sunday paper when at home, I increasingly find.

Flying on the ever-wonderful Virgin Atlantic, I didn't have to experience the after-effects of BA's in-flight-catering snafu.

We hear a lot about the supposed perils of outsourcing to the outsourced employees or the supposed (but usually fictional) danger to national economies if the outsourcing also involves off-shoring. However, this is one of the first examples I've seen in the mainstream press where the potentially adverse effects of oursourcing can impact the business doing the outsourcing. It makes for interesting study as it's a case study in what not to do: there was no alternative supplier, the outsourced workers were in the same union as many of BA's in-house staff (and in many cases were married to them) so industrial problems could spread very easily, the service provider was in financial difficulties and it seems that BA did not have advance warning of what was to come.

In many ways, I suspect they were treating Gate Gourmet as a "black box". They provided a service for a price and presumably had service-level agreements by which they were measured. This is the essence of the Core Competency doctrine.

This is interesting to me since we preach the same doctrine in the IT world - albeit under a different name: SOA.

I was reflecting on what the equivalent to the BA/Gate Gourmet problems would be in the SOA world. The micro-level is probably the easiest to look at. We rely on a service provider (either inside or outside our organisation) to provide the fulfilment for a service we need. The contract is the interface. The question we should be asking ourselves is: what would be the impact on my solution if the provider of this service broke their SLA?

My work is giving me an intense focus on the concepts of "Versioning" and "Dynamicity" at present. I've seen some wonderful solutions for this problem in recent weeks.... can't wait to be able to blog about them...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear God ... only Mr RB could manage to find a link between Gate Gourmet's current crapness and SOA ... tenuous jump to say the least, even bearing in mind the hour of posting :) ... Doubtless, as part of yr IT consultancy u received, yr architect will have designed yr SOA to be nice and robust and dynamically switch to another service provider should someone break their SLA ... bob's your mother's brother ... job's a good un