What is “Service Oriented Architecture”?

You are meeting with prospective Architects and you hear the statement once again “We are service oriented consultants” or you are looking through marketing literature and you note the bullets indicating the firm is “A service oriented organization.  What does “Service Oriented Architecture” really mean?  You ought to be asking “What shouldService Oriented Architecture” really mean?”

Service Oriented Architecture differs from many approaches to the field in that it is rooted in one simple question, “How can we best assist the client in realizing their goals”.

This question filters through all aspects of a contract starting with the initial determination of project scope. Every project is unique and thus a service oriented architect will work very closely with the client to determine the required scope.  The service oriented consultant will ask what initially seems like an inordinate number of questions.  These questions will range from what experience the owner has with this type of project, to the planned implementation methods.  The questions will also cover project drivers, basic design ideas, planned equipment & fixtures, anticipated ROI, cchedule, project team and initial budget …. to just name a few.  All these questions are geared to gaining a clear understanding of the project scope so the proposal can be individualized to the unique needs of the project.  A service oriented consultant does not have a standard approach that is overlaid on every project.

The next area where a Service Oriented Architect sets itself apart in the industry is in programming.   Often when working on a familiar project type the Architect can be tempted to take the short cut and answer many of his questions from his own experience then present that to the client for confirmation.  This approach can often result in the unique aspects of a project slipping through the cracks.  This pitfall can affect the industry specific or newspaper architect more than other design professionals due to the repetitive nature of the project type.  The service oriented design professional does not short cut this process.  In asking the extensive questions required to generate a quality program many unique characteristics will be identified and the opportunity will be afforded to challenge the past solutions.

These same tenants follow the entire design process.  The practice of architecture is not an endless opportunity for architects to realize their design ideas and philosophies.  Architecture is the creation of built habit-able spaces with the intent of housing a specific purpose.  The Service oriented architect will continuously ask the question of how each aspect of the design will meet the specific needs of the client.  Again this goes back to asking questions and designing based on the answers.

A service orientation follows every element of project scope, including the implementation phase of a project.  In some ways the most important part of a project is providing guidance during construction.  Regardless of the skill and effort of the design professional a set of documents could not possibly address every construction element.  One only needs to look around the space in which they sit and try to assess all the details that would have to be drawn to address every single contingency.  Now apply that to a whole building and add to it an entity constructing it that might have conflicting goals.  The service oriented Architect works tirelessly to follow a project through to its conclusion, always asking the question:

  • “What decision would be in the best interest of the client?”

In closing a Service Oriented Architect or design professional is one who continuously asks the question:

  • “How can we best assist the client in realizing their goals”.

If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us.

– Todd Heirls

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