Goran Mihelcic
, Bo Hu
and Stefan Pickl
Institute of Theoretical Computer Science, Mathematics, and Operations Research,
University of the Bundeswehr Munich, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, Neubiberg, Germany
Faculty of Business Administration, University of the Bundeswehr Munich, Neubiberg, Germany
Keywords: SOA, Decision support, Participatory modeling, Content & collaboration systems.
Abstract: Historically grown IT-landscapes in modern business, often referred to as ‘legacy’ systems or ‘accidental
architectures’, can have a strong impact on the efficiency of decision support processes. Caused by a high
level of separation of essential software applications, crucial information needed may often be difficult and
time consuming to retrieve. The authors show one approach of how distributed business-critical software
applications can be integrated using the service oriented architecture paradigm. The implementation of
webservices can increase the flexibility and integrity of decision support processes. The authors demonstrate
their approach in the context of a participatory system dynamics modelling application.
Modern businesses and organizations are
dependent and relying on effective and efficient
decision making of their employees on all
strategic levels. In modern economies, about 40%
of the employed staff is predominantly engaged to
decision making (Johnson, 2005).
An important role within this context is taken by
modern IT-systems that support, control, and
streamline often business-critical processes. Based
on data and information drawn from these systems
(also referred to Business Transaction Systems) and
supported by his human-judgement and experience,
the decision maker aspires to find the best possible
solution to a given problem. Quite often, with the
partly rapid growing of companies, the rising
demands for further IT-support in newly emerging
(process) business areas is met by just adding new
applications to the existing IT-landscape. Along with
this 'strategy' comes the shortcoming of taking the
mutual ability of integration among these software
components into account.
The arising problems of e.g. redundant data
management and inconsistent information in such
"ad hoc-ritectures" or "accidental architectures"
(see, e.g., Roth, 1999; Booch, 2006) negatively
influence the quality of decision making and
therefore the performance of the company.
Ultimately, this may result in loosing competitive
advantages "even though" significant investments
into the IT-infrastructure have been made. As in
these cases the reorganization respectively
replacement of (parts of) the operating IT-systems
often result in direct loss of productiveness, a
‘smoother’ approach aiming at an increase of the
level of integration has to be determined.
Service oriented architectures (SOA) and the
introduction of webservices (WS) have proven to
be useful in such environments and may lead to a
streamlining of the given IT-landscape. In the
following, a short review of related works is given
and based on a prototype (Hu, 2011) we
demonstrate in this paper that SOA, in particularly
based on WS, can be used to integrate decision-
support functions broadly into enterprise business
transaction systems.
When it comes to the management of large
Mihelcic G., Hu B. and Pickl S..
DOI: 10.5220/0003759802150218
In Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Operations Research and Enterprise Systems (ICORES-2012), pages 215-218
ISBN: 978-989-8425-97-3
2012 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
amounts of data, data warehouses are one
approach to deal with mass data. In order to
transform the given data into valuable business
information, a class of information systems called
"Business Intelligence Systems" is often applied.
Business Intelligence (BI) systems (in a wider
sense) comprise all applications that directly or
indirectly provide decision support. These
systems include analysis and presentation, as well
as, data preparation and storage functionality
(Kemper, 2006).
Management Support Systems (MSS) can be
described as the early predecessors to BI systems.
They focused – similarly to BI systems – on
use of computers and related information
technologies to support managers
" (Scott, 1983).
Nowadays, competitive businesses have to
support decision making not exclusively on higher
strategic management levels but furthermore have
to support important decision making processes at
all strategic levels, and therefore consistently
down to the operational levels. Accordingly, an
appropriate IT support has to be provided that
may e.g. be implemented by a business
transaction system.
BI systems build the core for business
transaction systems (see e.g. June et al., 2008) that
constitute the base application for effective
decision making of business personnel. As a front
end layer, business transaction systems provide
the decision maker with important data and
information about the company. In order to
establish a web based interface to the user, these
front end layers are often implemented as or
integrated into content management and
collaboration systems that may be accessed using
a web browser.
When it comes to the question of closing the
gap between the core BI system (or integrating
any kind of application from the back end) and the
business transaction front end, one approach that
can be applied is the service oriented one.
A service oriented (software/system) architecture
is an abstract description of how services can be
provided, searched for, and applied within a network
infrastructure. One of its central features is its
platform independency which enables a (business)
process oriented view on central (service oriented)
software components (Melzer, 2010).
Services can be described as (small)
applications or software components that fulfill a
certain (sub-)task and that may be accessed via a
network. In order to be locatable, services have to
provide a public description of their interfaces.
Following the design aspect of "information
hiding" the implementation, respectively the code
of the service, is invisible to the user (ibid.).
One way of implementing and technologically
representing the concept of a service is the
development of a respective webservice. A common
definition of webservices is provided by the W3C
(World Wide Web Consortium) (W3C, 2004):
"A Web service is a software system identified
by a URI [...], whose public interfaces and
bindings are defined and described using XML.
Its definition can be discovered by other software
systems. These systems may then interact with the
Web service in a manner prescribed by its
definition, using XML based messages conveyed
by Internet protocols."
An important precondition to the introduction
of webservices is the necessity of having thorough
knowledge of the underlying business processes.
They represent the basic layer for the
development of a webservice structure. A
business process can use a variety of different
webservices from its starting to its end point. A
stringent business process management approach
will support the understanding of the vital
corporate procedures and will furthermore enable
a consistent implementation of business processes
into corporate IT systems.
The ability of connecting different software
systems combined with its platform independency
makes (web-)services a crucial factor when a (re-)
integration of historically grown "accidental
architectures" is intended.
The following case study shows a simple
example of how webservices can be used in the
context of a heterogeneous software landscape
and how it provides flexible support to a decision
support system.
Participatory System Dynamics (SD) modeling
can be seen as an important option to support
decision-making processes (Andersen, 1997).
ICORES 2012 - 1st International Conference on Operations Research and Enterprise Systems
Figure 1 shows a use case diagram of a web-based
participatory modeling platform which aims to
support intensive collaboration between the
modelers and the decision-makers. When a
decision-maker views the model, comprehensive
explanations about the model structure are
displayed step-by-step in synchronization with the
model which is displayed graphically using any
recent web browser (Hu, 2011).
Figure 1: Use cases diagram for a web-based participatory
modeling platform.
Compared to a standard content and
collaboration system the only key function to be
implemented was a server-side viewer for System
Dynamics models. As shown in Figure 3 the
modules for the viewer "Mdl2Xml" and
"Xml2Img" are implemented using Microsoft's
.NET technology and connected natively to an
Xml-centric content and collaboration system
which is also based on .NET technology and
provides basis functions like file repository and
role based access control as well as tools
supporting collaboration. If another content and
collaboration system or another server is preferred
SOA, especially WS is the right choice of
architecture pattern.
Figure 2: Native connection of modules supporting
participatory modeling to a content and collaboration
system natively.
The server-side viewer for System Dynamics
models is implemented as a webservice and can
be integrated into any content and collaboration
system which is capable to provide an interface
calling webservices, as depicted in Figure 3. Also
in the given case the basic functions and
collaboration tools are provided by the content
and collaboration system into which the server-
side model viewer is integrated. The webservice
itself has not to manage the persistent data
Figure 3: Integrating modules supporting participatory
modeling into a content and collaboration system using
The webservice shown in the figure above is a
loosely coupled part of the integrated application
and can easily be transferred and integrated into
different application contexts. If furthermore,
during the productive use of the given application,
the need for a different type of visualization
occurs, the webservice can comfortably be
adapted to the changes needed. Furthermore,
different webservices from internal or external
providers can be flexibly interchanged.
In this paper the authors described one way of
dealing with grown IT-landscapes or so-called
"accidental architectures" by choosing the service
oriented architecture approach. In particular the
application of webservices has been explored and
implemented within a case study. This approach
has proven to be promising in the developed
model case.
Besides the major advantages of being
platform independent and enabling connectivity
between different software systems, the concept
of webservices also brings along a variety of
disadvantages. Besides security issues (e.g.
authentication) and performance problems caused
by the overhead of XML-message handling, the
high effort of integrating legacy systems
("accidental architectures") has to be carefully
examined in its relation to the achievable benefit.
Especially when the coding and providing of the
service is outsourced, further sensitive issues arise
as e.g. the dependency on the provider as well as
his failure rate and trust issues etc. (Finger, 2009)
Being aware that real-world IT-landscapes in
modern businesses are far more complex, the
authors still believe that the paradigm of SOA can
be one method to increase the level of integration
among historically grown and disconnected
software applications. Further research of the
authors aims at the verification of this hypothesis
in the context of larger IT-landscapes.
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ICORES 2012 - 1st International Conference on Operations Research and Enterprise Systems