Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a very cool thing. What is it? As with most innovations, it’s a way of looking at an old concept in a new way. What first was known as a “Web Portal”, now becoming known as a “Mash Up”, is SOA personified. A ‘service’ is a way to get information into the hands of the user. So if you are using Google Maps and want to get a listing of hotels in the vicinity of your location, the ‘service’ would be the hotel-finder integrated with the mapping software. Those two things combined makes the resulting content relevant to you, the searcher.

The same concept applies to insurance architecture. The key is knowing the purpose of the Web page, as defined by the target audience. (So be careful not to try to serve too many audiences with the same content, right? Instead create multiple pages or sites.) Once you have a clear audience, then you can clearly define the ‘services’ that audience might appreciate. For example, an agent portal. What services do agents want? Easy contracting for new states, new products, new lines of business? News? Training and Certification? Business Status? Commissions for sure. Hierarchy production reports – absolutely. These are all services. So a site designed to serve agents should leverage SOA all over the place, as much as possible, linking to the policy admin legacy back-end, commission-tracking system, perhaps a Learning Management System. The same concepts apply to affinity marketing sites, direct-to-consumer sites, etc…

But here’s the thing. Make one place the “source of truth” for agents or consumers. With i-frames and single-sign-on, the user should never have to ‘leave’ the portal/mash up/resource center. Browsing is tough enough without the distraction of jumping from site to site, even if the branding and look-and-feel are consistent. “Just bring the data into one place and let me do my thing.” It’s fairly simple to do, but it takes a rare combination of design and usability, technical know-how, and nimbility (speed-to-market, speed-to-change).

Geee, where can you find that rare mix ….

Some recent pic’s from the crazy weather up here… Click the image to see a larger version.

Ice Storm in Northeast Ohio
Then a school bus pulled up!

18 inches at once in Northeast Ohio
The morning after…
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Next - Spring Break with the fam!