SOA: Slouching towards Bethlehem

I’m providing COBRA Continuation Health Coverage to a family member who’s no longer eligible under my company health insurance plan. Three months ago I signed up for the plan, and separately arranged for automatic payment.

Yesterday I was notified that the administration of this COBRA continuation service was sold by one company and bought by another. So of course, now I have sign up again, and arrange for automatic payment again.

Really?

This is how I know that SOA (service-oriented architecture) is not dead, but rather slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.

Yesterday’s call:

Agent: You’ll need to log in to the website and then, using the account number and PIN in the letter we sent …

Me: Hold on a second. I didn’t ask company A to sell the administration of service B to company C. I don’t even want to know that it happened. I only care that the health coverage continues, and that A — excuse me, C — gets paid. I shouldn’t have to create any new online accounts. But I have the sinking feeling that I will have to.

Agent: Yes, sir, I’m afraid you will.

A service handoff like this could be, and should be, nearly transparent to the customer. It’s doable. But it will require a few layers of secure intermediation and delegation. Call it SOA, call it whatever you like. But so long as we keep having these inane conversations, don’t call it dead.

5 Comments

  1. It should be, but there is no incentive to do so. Company A buys Company C for the assets. You are stuck with Company C due to the fact that its COBRA. Company C now owns your account (along with thousands of other accounts). If you drop coverage, Company c continues to thrive off of everyone else, and you can’t pick up COBRA coverage from anyone else.

  2. Jon, I hear you. A more trivial but annoying example from my own life comes to mind at this time of year. Every semester I get hired to be a lecturer on my campus, I need to walk over to the library to get my library privileges reinstated. All the data needed to restore my privileges is available electronically to the library — but I still have to show up in person. I’m sure the library has some policy-based reason for this impedance-mismatch, but I as a patron cannot see it.

  3. Firstly: that’s a very good and worthwhile action to take on behalf of your relative. Kudos to you.

    I’m a developer, technologist, RESTafarian, and systems integrator. My wife…. is none of those, and can’t actually explain what I do. :)

    We recently got IPhones and she was _very_ frustrated with the contact sync (MobileMe first then to GMail) and wanted me to explain why “they” couldn’t get contacts to sync!

    I said that companies everywhere are struggling with trying to integrate and transfer data. If companies can’t get contact lists to sync easily, imagine the effort to get everything else to do so.

    Jon, you said “It’s doable”. I agree it is, but once one system changes or another gets added to the mix it all breaks again. Even the conscientious developer is hard pressed to build an evolvable system with today’s tool, techniques, and methods.

    Just my take, cheers!

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