The benefits of Web services will be profound, but not easily or quickly obtained. Building application-to-application links will require not only excellent technologists but skilled managers and leaders as well.
For corporate computing, the big story of the new millennium has been Web services. As the excitement around the Y2K “crisis” and e-commerce business models faded just after the turn of the century, enthusiasm started to build for this technology, which is a set of tools that make it easier for applications to talk to each other. In other words, Web services install the plumbing required for information systems to interact without human involvement. An important aspect of Web services is that they work as well between companies as within them. Just as the Internet and the World Wide Web led to a huge change in how people interact with distant applications (for example, the applications at Amazon.com), so the Internet and Web services hold out the promise of drastically changing how distant applications interact with each other. See sidebar
But how real is this promise? Will Web services be a truly disruptive innovation that revolutionizes how companies interact? Or will they turn out to be the latest in a series of technologies, developed and promoted by the highly entrepreneurial IT industries, that fizzle when they hit the real world? (You may remember CASE tools and Internet “push” technology.1)
The answer is that they will be neither. They will be highly useful, but not quickly or obviously disruptive; in fact, they will reinforce existing relationships rather than catalyze new ones.