So you want to get your project started?

Although Web services hype doesn’t currently jibe with its reality, experts note that it might just be a matter of time.

It appears that organizations are at the very least looking at how the new technology can boost business. In a recent study conducted by Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Dataquest, 92 per cent of large North American enterprises say they are now (or are planning to) adopting Web services within systems integration projects over the next year.

For organizations just starting to implement Web services, Stephen O’Grady, an analyst at Red Monk in Bath, Me., said it’s important to first identify the business case.

“If Web services is a completely new area, look for business challenges that would benefit from lightweight integration, and those with less strict security requirements,” O’Grady offered.

The best plan of attack is by putting a focus on integration-challenged business units that might benefit from the advantages Web services bring, versus other integration styles, O’Grady added.

While J2EE and .Net continue to fight for Web services mindshare, the fact is that they are both capable Web services platforms. O’Grady said selecting the appropriate technology – language, environment, runtime, IDE – is a decision that should be based in part on an enterprise’s environment and skill sets, and on its future plans.

It’s also important to recognize that Web services isn’t a technological cure-all, according to Bob Donnelly, a consultant at Fujitsu Consulting (Canada) Inc.

IT certainly has to be involved in the process to make it happen but business must be committed as well, Donnelly said. If a Web services implementation is going to fail, it’s more likely that there was a disconnect between the two, he added.

While the initial “objects in the sky” Web services model – enabling organizations to seamlessly expose and connect systems using Web services standards – has been largely deferred due to security and reliability issues, Donnelly said enterprise should still start off small, with a pilot project and implement in phases.

Hershel Harris agrees. The Markham, Ont.-based vice-president of WebSphere application server development and director for IBM Canada’s Toronto Lab noted that a successful WS project relies on defining a scope.

The best way to go is to start internally with “high-value” projects, he added. “It has to be small enough that you can succeed with, but big enough that it matters,” Harris said. Many enterprises began their Web services implementations with just these types of small, digestible projects.

“A common example is with a particularly well-utilized internal service – a people finder, for instance, and implement this as a Web service,” O’Grady said. This allows enterprises to get their feet wet with Web services technology and get a first hand look at the benefits.

David Senf, senior analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said the key is interoperability and ensuring that everything across the enterprise is compatible with Web Services Interoperability (WSI) standards. IT departments looking to implement the technology should recognize that straying too far from WSI standards can cause interoperability problems, both in and outside the enterprise.

Additionally, Senf noted that organizations should clearly define services-oriented versus information-oriented integration and assess the value proposition for both.

Farhat Siddiqui, business change manager for the Petroleum Registry of Alberta, noted that while admittedly encountering some “scope creep” and a few early issues with Web services manageability, spending ample resources on testing before going live goes a long way towards avoiding problems down the road.

The Calgary-based organization not too long ago implemented Web services to help with integration and successfully create a central data repository and registry for its oil and gas clients. The Petroleum Registry of Alberta subscribed to the “big bang” approach – that is, the organization decided to widely implement the technology right away.

“In terms of meeting our budget and time commitments…once we narrowed down our scope we were pretty satisfied with it.”