Summary: Web services help different applications communicate with each other–regardless of platform or technology. But, what does this mean from a business standpoint? Learn how web services can help your business save money, improve productivity, extend the life of legacy systems, and much more!
Is your business capitalizing on the power of web services?
While web services have been around for a while, not everyone is using them. Or, some businesses only use them in a limited fashion.
Today, we’ll explore the potential locked away in web services. But first, let me define them for those unfamiliar with the topic.
What are web services? Web Services help different applications communicate (and share data and services) with each other. Web services are platform and technology independent. They connect all types of applications across the web—even those built with different languages. For example, a web service can let a .NET application talk to a Java application and vice versa.
Now, what does this mean practically? How will web services boost your business?
Let’s explore some practical examples and business benefits of using web services. Hopefully, this will spur ideas, or open your eyes to new business possibilities. If you’re not using web services (or using them in a limited fashion), here are some benefits and practical examples. Web services help you:
1. Integrate outside features
What if you could add new features to your business applications without building them yourself? That’s one of the biggest perks of web services.
With web services, you don’t need to be an expert in multiple technologies. You don’t need to build custom features into your business applications. You just need to know how to tie things together.
For example, here are a few ways other businesses integrate outside features using web services:
Online retailers use web services to calculate shipping costs in real-time. These sites rely on web services provided by the shipping company to calculate shipping rates based on the item weight and customer’s location.
Travel search sites rely on web services to find the best travel deals. They use web services to pull data from many travel sites, and then combine (and rank) that data for their users.
Email service providers (ESPs) use web services to integrate with other software. For instance, ESPs often provide web services that let users integrate email services with their existing CRM solution.
2. Streamline processes
Many companies face a similar problem. They lack communication and integration across departments and software.
In many companies, different departments act like different entities. They create their own departmental information silos. They use applications and systems that are incompatible with other departments.
The result: Employees waste time manually pulling data out of one system and entering it into another. This not only slows down business processes, it opens the door for data entry errors.
Web services provides a solution to this common problem. They let you connect many systems together–streamlining business processes. Now, instead of entering data manually, the applications communicate with each other.
Here’s a great example of this concept in action: GM used web services to streamline internal processes. The result: They reduced their vehicle design process from forty-eight to eighteen months.
How can web services streamline your processses?
3. Improve collaboration
Let’s take the last point one step further. What other advantages do you gain by connecting your systems and applications?
You gain the advantage of connected employees.
If you integrate your applications across departments, it will improve collaboration. Employees across departments can share project updates and monitor progress. They can easily communicate with other employees–even those in different physical locations.
I cannot overstate the value of improved collaboration. When you tie your systems together with web services, you also connect your employees.
4. Improve development productivity
As stated above, web services let different systems share data and functions with other systems. From a development standpoint, they can save enormous amounts of time.
For instance, suppose you need a specific feature in multiple applications or systems. Rather than build it many times, developers can build it once as a web service. Then, they can call that web service from different applications.
Here’s a great example: Merrill Lynch needed a risk-evaluation service. Without web services, it would have had required installation at several units within the organization. Using web services protocols, they were able to build it once, and give all the appropriate users access.
5. Save money
Web services can also bring dramatic cost savings to your business. How?
First, as mentioned above, web services let you add more features to your applications with less work.
They also let you take advantage of features, without learning the underlying technology.
For instance, suppose you needed a scheduling feature added to your applications. Before web services, a developer would have to learn the ins and outs of scheduling applications. They may even need to pick up a new technology to implement the project.
With web services, this process gets simplified. They can just plug their existing applications into a scheduling application using web services. There’s no need to build it from scratch or become an expert in scheduling applications.
Here’s a great example of this concept in action: Lifetime Fitness needed an integrated scheduling system. Without web services, they estimated this scheduling system would cost $20 million. Using web services, they accomplished the goal at a small fraction of the price.
6. Extend the life of older systems
Many businesses still use legacy systems. These legacy systems are so highly customized and ingrained in their business, they can’t afford to replace them.
The problem is, these legacy systems deliver outdated features. Their limited capabilities often hold companies back from new possibilities.
Web services provide a solution to this problem. They let new applications communicate with legacy systems. This lets businesses bring modern features to existing systems—without replacing the system itself.
7. Take advantage of the cloud
In the past, businesses hosted their applications in-house. With the rise of cloud hosts and services, this is changing.
As businesses adopt more Software-as-a-Service options, and move some applications to cloud hosts, the need for integration grows. How will they connect their cloud, on-premise, and SaaS applications?
Web services provide a simple way to tie everything together. They let apps communicate with each other and share data—regardless of physical location. This lets businesses take full advantage of the cloud without worrying about integration.
While this list could certainly go on, these are just a few ways that web services can help your business. What do you think? Would you add anything to the list? If so, please feel free to share in the comments.