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.
Just as the Internet and the World Wide Web led to a huge change in how people interact with distant applications, so the Internet and Web services hold out the promise of drastically changing how distant applications interact with each other. But how real is this promise? If information systems could look for and find each other, share data and execute business processes, all with no (or very little) human involvement, the business world would likely be quite transformed. The author concludes, however, that Web services will not create this world, nor will any technology on the horizon. Web services, he argues, will be highly useful, but not quickly or obviously disruptive; in fact, they will reinforce existing relationships rather than catalyze new ones. What’s more, the application-integration challenges that remain unaddressed by Web services are the really difficult ones that can only be overcome by the work of managers and leaders, not technologists or consortia. The author’s themes are illustrated by an extended example drawn from his case study of IBM’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) organization, which has been working with independent distributors in several countries to automate the ordering of midrange computing systems. The case provides a close look at an effort to go beyond the capabilities of previous B2B technologies to build agreements and standards for application-application interactions where none previously had existed.