Like going to the dentist, making investment decisions on technology can be a time consuming and painful experience. If the process of building consensus on a business case and analyzing all the vendors and products available in the marketplace takes too long, the business runs the risk that by the time a decision is made and the technology is implemented, market or regulatory changes will have occurred and the solution will be inadequate.
Based on the dramatic events of the last few years (not to mention pending changes in the way that leases will be accounted for beginning in the near future) leasing companies should start by looking at the flexibility of their systems and their ability to support change. The most flexible organizations, with capabilities to foster product and process innovation are able to better ensure success in the face of dynamic market and regulatory conditions. If nothing else, having weathered the latest storm, the survivors in the leasing industry should become more adept at responding to changing realities and improving their ability to evolve with the needs of the marketplace.
Today, leasing companies can achieve flexibility and maintain alignment of business and IT by managing business processes through technology that is based on Service Oriented Architecture (‚SOA‛). Leasing companies are most likely to see the potential benefits of SOA if they have a view that the world in which we live is changing significantly and leasing companies will also have to change significantly in order to flourish (or even just to avoid a slow and painful decline). And the beauty of SOA is that it can start small as an incremental approach, implementing pieces of applications based on the greatest pain points, or it can start big, with an entire services-enabled platform creating a solid foundation for all future technology investments.
SOA is not a new technology; it is a design principle. The SOA approach to design, in bundling functionality into compartmentalized services, allows for each individual service to be enhanced incrementally without impacting the wider system adversely. The interoperability of services is determined as part of initial design; once dependencies (i.e. the specifics around how each service contributes to and is dependent upon the functioning of other services) are established and, assuming that touch points between services are not changed, what happens inside each individual service can be enhanced independently as needed. Over time, each underlying business process can be incrementally reconstructed, enhanced or even automated while the overall system continues to function uninterrupted because the service that requests a specific process to run is the same. Amazingly, this is the equivalent of getting an engine tune-up and tire replacement while the car continues to be in motion.
For many years some of the most valuable resources in a leasing organization were those people expert at designing workarounds in order to overcome the limitations of rigid legacy systems. But, with the advent of Service Oriented Architecture, these resources can be re-focused on providing the business with long term solutions that add value instead of just temporary fixes. In fact, it allows for the very concept of ‘rapid and continuous improvement’ to be extended to the lease management system and, by doing so, can itself become a complimentary, synchronized and an integral part of such corporate initiatives. Whether the goal is the ability to more easily develop new products and capabilities, improve employee productivity, create closer and more automated relationships with customers, vendors and other business partners, or simply more efficient decision-making, the SOA approach increases the probability for success.