TechTransform, August 20, 2003: A customer requests a quote and your sales force furnishes it. You negotiate a deal and the product is supplied after credit verification, and then the bill is paid.
Simple, huh? Now imagine a world in which this was all done dynamically and automatically by online systems talking to each other using the web. Not a single human was involved.
Here To Stay
It's for real. It's called Dynamic B-to-B Collaboration, and it's just one facet of Web services, a generic-sounding name for something pretty revolutionary.
Sounds great! Not only do you get to avoid having your own transaction infrastructure, but you don't even have to own software. But most of all, there's that chance to be part of many global business interconnections.
And Web services are with us to stay (timetable). UK research firm Ovum says that by 2006, the worldwide enterprise Web services "spend" will reach $40B per year. That money will come from existing budgets. Hmmm.
OK, you're ready for the implications.
We Took The Leap
First, a story close to home. TechTransform has always been about working virtually, and you know that a major challenge in any virtual organization is managing finance.
So we selected Oracle Small Business or OSB, which lets you do everything from order-taking on the web to full financials, all with your browser. For us, OSB allowed team members to log on from anywhere to report time and expenses automatically. And our virtual accountant could work from anywhere, too.
It worked very well. In fact, it's one of the factors that have allowed us to operate without real offices.
Managing The Addiction
We had a great deal: about a hundred bucks a month for 10 user licenses for all the applications.
But two years later, that great deal expired, and... surprise! We now had a new deal with half the users - at three times the monthly fee.
We negotiated and, in the end, worked it out fairly.
But the point is this: Web services are an addiction and you never really own anything.
If you do invest in Web services, make sure that you're not stuck with a single provider who can adjust your deal at will. It's a serious downside to the web services revolution.
For me, the other major implication is that $40 billion, which we are told will come from existing IT budgets!
That sends up a major alarm signal for many of us, but especially those among us who are:
Enterprise application developers.
Looking for new client budget dollars.
Even more interesting is this: 28 of the 40 billion will be for professional services!
This represents a major opportunity for consultancies like KPMG and integrators like IBM Global Services, who have been, of course, pushing hard for Web services adoption.
The Silver Lining
I've seen the chart of all the interrelated services needed to make Web services work, and there are dozens of areas where integrators will step in, not just to integrate, but to provide core services that are really products.
For example, for Dynamic B-to-B to work, everyone will need a Trust Broker to make sure people are who they claim to be.
Consultancies will tell clients they can operate the Trust Brokerage. If you believe that, then you probably have never worked with one of these service organizations.
The truth is that consultancies and integrators will promise the result and then, if they're smart, will quickly race to technology firms to build and manage the system behind their promises.
So that's the silver lining for many of us: someone will have to build all this.
Brave New World
This is an exciting new world.
In a 2002 Survey of corporate and IT professionals, most said they would use Web services in 2003. They believed Web services were critical to success and could be immediately valuable.
But in time, these same professionals will have to confront the addiction factor inherent in Web services. It won't be easy. Getting users out of nightmare Web services situations will become a specialty in itself.
The saving grace is that Web services use an inherently open place -- the Web.
Should be interesting, though.