By Forrester Research
Special to CNET News.com
January 7, 2003, 4:00AM PT
By Ted Schadler, Principal Analyst
In 2004, many firms will put customer-facing Web services into production. But will those services be successful? We've synthesized the best and worst practices of early adopters into tips that business and information technology managers should follow to avoid common pitfalls and build killer Web services.
Fifty-seven percent of the companies Forrester recently interviewed plan to deploy customer-facing Web services in 2004. The timing is good. After all, in August 2003, Web services standards reached a milestone when the 170-member-strong Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) approved a test suite to certify that your customers can use your Web service as easily as they can use your Web site. But will your customers use it? You'll increase the chances by building killer Web services that:
Solve clear business problems
Make your customers more productive
Can be used without modification by many customers
Six tips for business managers
Tip 1: Focus first on business integration
RouteOne, for example, is using Web services to do auto loan processing for 22,000 DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor, General Motors and Toyota dealers. It's a B2B dream come true. Many of the e-business projects that were on the table in 1999 are possible now, with technology that is robust, mature and cheap.
Tip 2: Give away simple Web services to important customers
Harley-Davidson, for example, uses Web services to tell partner Ticketmaster that a ticket buyer is a HOG--a Harley-Davidson Owners Group member--deserving of a merchandise discount. Over time, you will gain confidence in the technology, hear what else your customer or supplier wants from you--and how much they'll pay--and what other customer segments you can profitably serve.
Tip 3: Do your homework before building billable Web services
Firms will have to gain experience and conduct a market analysis before putting a price on an enhanced order status query service, a lab-results reporting service or a regulatory filing service. When thinking about the pricing model, be sure to consider the complexity of measuring and billing for the service, and anticipate a rapid ramp up in demand for the service. Supply chain visibility vendor BridgePoint's first Web service had 500 times more hits per month than the firm had anticipated.
Tip 4: Master the art of the reusable business document
Tip 5: Don't let security paranoia interfere with good business sense
The simple fact is that Web services for trusted customers and suppliers in an invitation-only network can be secured using the same technology your Web site uses. Instead of letting security concerns stop a Web services project cold, smart business managers will borrow a page from J.P. Morgan Chase's playbook and build security risk into the business case as an expense.
Tip 6: Put a power meter and steering wheel on every Web service
To avoid building "dark" Web services that are invisible to all but the most dedicated data center operator, be sure to demand visibility, accountability and hands-on control over the service. Once the Web service is in operation, make sure that you will be able to get answers to questions like: Who's using the service? How often are they requesting it? How many requests succeed? How many fail? You must free up the budget to build these control tools.
Four more tips, for IT professionals
Tip 7: Establish a Web services framework and design review process
Start with the WS-I Basic Profile
Adopt different templates for internal and external Web services. Internal Web services often don't require the same level of security and control as do supplier- or customer-facing Web services. Lydian Trust, a back-office provider to LendingTree, provides an internal-only template, but it then requires an extensive review and "hardened" external template for business Web services exposed outside the firewall.
Build a developer portal for design-time assistance and review. This site will make it easier to offer developer tools like templates and clarify the review process. Be sure to include some useful services to show how it's done, a training guide for the templates and a downloadable SOAP client for testing services.
Tip 8: Master the Web services life cycle
Design time: Help developers build loosely coupled Web services
Publication time: Implement a "service management" system
Connection time: Give connection managers security and provisioning tools
Runtime: Instrument XML networks with in-band and out-of-band controls
Revision time: Use a registry to implement a generous upgrade policy
Tip 9: Choose a Web services platform as a foundation
Tip 10: Use specialty tool kits to extend the foundation
Data and process interchange
© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.