Top dogs grapple over the concept of Web services

While the development of Web services continues to peak the interest of IT departments worldwide, management higher-ups are still not convinced of the business benefits of the technology.

That reality emerged last month when Telus Corp. and Microsoft Canada Corp. attempted to demonstrate to Canadian CEOs and CIOs the business side of Web services.

Microsoft Canada President Frank M. Clegg offered a keynote address at the event, dubbed Telus Expert Series: What every CEO needs to know about being a WebPowered business. He highlighted the business challenges and the vision and promise of extensible markup language (XML-) based Web services. He said that the concept represents the next generation of software that offers an interconnected world of businesses, systems and processes anywhere, anytime.

“Web services are a separate business focus from the back-end solutions,” Clegg said. “But, the business fundamentals don’t change. The fundamentals are driving revenue and increasing customer satisfaction.”

Web services extend existing skills and assets, he continued, and maximize development productivity with one programming model across clients, servers and services.

However, the business-related explanation was lost on at least one seminar attendee. Glenn J. Hunter, chief marketing officer and CIO for eFreight, an outsourcing transportation company in Ajax, Ont., said that by attending the Telus seminar, he had hoped to receive a solid explanation of the business side of Web services.

“It missed it for me,” Hunter said. “What I found was that it really was still being driven by the technology teams saying, ‘These are the technologies we can do for you.’ The real question was, ‘Tell me the benefit of investing money in a B2B relationship using XML. Tell me the business benefit of having a relationship with Telus and how that is better than dealing with another service provider.'”

Hunter said that as with any new technological development, there is a certain amount of hype that clouds the real purpose of the solution. Although he said he is confident in his knowledge of the function of Web services, he attended the seminar to get a comfort feeling in making an investment; unfortunately, he did not get that.

“It is really nice to have something that you can present to the marketplace,” he said. “(But) you should have some fundamental strategies developed before you invest money in the technology and have an idea of what the outcome will be. I did not see that in the presentation. I did not see from them clear roadmaps and paths of how they are going to deliver these things. Maybe they don’t know yet.

Hunter said he had been involved in marketing for a long time and that a key tactic in that game is stimulating a message to find out if there is a market. If you get a response, he said, then go ahead and build it.

“The problem was that [the seminar] jumped right into a technology solution and not into the processes of getting teams to the table to build it.”

Hunter went on to say that Web services propose that IT does not have to be a big issue anymore because operators like Telus will be responsible for handling the technological side.

“If [Telus] is going to deal with the technology in behind (the service), I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to know about it. Just tell me how to get on with the relationship.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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