Panelists at a Toronto conference pushed Web services — essentially utilities that can be invoked over the Internet — as an alternative to mammoth development projects.

The Web Services 2002 Tour stopped at the Marriott Eaton Centre Wednesday, giving representatives from Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd., Cisco Systems Canada Co. and Telus Corp. the opportunity to pitch their vision of software as a utility, like power, heat, light and water.

Cisco’s Andrew Sage described it as “”the intergalactic space project”” — his reference for undertakings with two-year development cycles and five-year ROI timelines.

“”That’s absolutely not the way to approach Web services,”” said Sage. Web service-based projects are driven by quick ROI — instead of getting one-fifth of the way to beginning to pay off, in one year a company can have five smaller projects returning money.

Michael LaPalme, e-business assistant vice-president with Telus, used the example of a customer looking at a large CRM installation. By focusing on one component — sales force automation, for example — the company can be realizing efficiencies now, rather than waiting until the larger project is finished.

Web services force the convergence of business and IT strategies, according to Joseph Belsanti, HP Canada’s e-services manager.

“”The Web services discussion is not the traditional e-business discussion,”” he said.

Web services enhance — not replace — applications like business process automation. For example, they could be used to deliver supporting content with sales lead alerts.

“”Web services are to an application what Web pages are to a person,”” Belsanti said. “”The application browses the service and publishes the information.””

The Web Services Tour 2002 is in Vancouver on Thursday and Calgary on Friday.


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