Web services mean big changes for IT

While B2B is still in its infancy in Australia, analysts predict Web services will have a big impact, especially on the corporate IT department.

Greta James, research director, application integration for Gartner, said while many enterprises are "still experimenting internally" with B2B, leading-edge companies will be into Web services by 2003.

However, as John Hagel and John Seely Brown predict in their article, Your Next IT Strategy, in the Harvard Business Review, October 2001, the shift to Web services architecture will require broad organisational and managerial changes, as well as the development of new kinds of capabilities.

They foresee CIOs facing new challenges and assuming new roles.

"IT departments will need to move in two dimensions simultaneously: outsourcing many traditional IT activities … while leveraging internal capabilities to design distinctive Web services that can be sold to other companies." In other words, CIOs will become strategists and entrepreneurs, assessing areas of competitive advantage and focusing resources on building new IT-based businesses.

Secondly, the authors believe IT departments will need to integrate new sets of skills in such areas as enterprise application architecture, enterprise application integration, application development, security and IT operations.

CIOs will also become relationship managers. "IT operations and performance will increasingly depend on the effective integration of external resources, requiring deeper skills in structuring and managing relationships."

And finally, IT departments, according to Hagel and Seely Brown, will need to take the lead in shaping the standards required for industries and business communities to operate effectively.

While all this may look daunting, James said it is significant to note that the move to Web services will "not be a revolution, but more an evolution".

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