SmartAdvice: Make Sure E-Business Bids Make Sense And Offer Value - InformationWeek

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SmartAdvice: Make Sure E-Business Bids Make Sense And Offer Value

Don't jump on the E-commerce bandwagon just because, The Advisory Council says--look for the business value. Also, Web services make building links with partners easier; and customer Web portals can work even in high-touch businesses.

Question A: Hype aside, what role should Web services have in our B-to-B E-commerce plans?

Our advice: In an enterprise where IT is viewed as a strategic enabler, the use of Web services is increasingly seen as a key to simplifying partner interoperability. As the enterprise starts to see IT providing competitive advantage, B-to-B E-commerce brings "real time" business closer to reality, providing cost savings from inventory control, quick delivery, and customer satisfaction. B-to-B E-commerce plays a key role in supply-chain management. Web services also have started to replace the older EDI networks. In a competitive business environment, B-to-B E-commerce plays a key role in an effective trading-partner relationship, providing an efficient and reliable interaction point for a business.

Web Services In E-Commerce
Because of the flexibility, resilience, common standards, and ubiquity of Web services, they have provided acceleration in B-to-B E-commerce, and opportunities for value-added networks. Examples can be seen in the hospitality and travel industry, where networks such as Amadeus, Sabre, and Worldspan act as interconnections to both small and large hotel and travel service providers, creating global distribution systems. These systems provide a Web-based infrastructure to sell travel-related services, from marketers to service delivery.

Related Links

World Wide Web Consortium

Microsoft Web Services Developer Center

Web Services Pipeline
In a multienterprise partnership, where each enterprise uses different tools and infrastructure internally, Web services are emerging as the interoperability glue for a network of providers and brokers. This requires common standards such as ebXML (Electronic Business eXtensible Markup Language), supported by industry-specific VANs which provide interface connections to these standards.

Developing E-commerce IT Partnerships
In developing E-commerce partnerships using Web services as a tool for interoperation, enterprises have to evaluate their relationships in terms of strategic importance and level of IT sophistication. The level of IT sophistication is a key to B-to-B E-commerce between two enterprises. Seamless interoperation using Web services requires the partners to work together to build a common interface, adding complexity not faced in internal projects. Most enterprises will have to convince their suppliers to adopt, and collaborate with willingness to compromise.

A well-developed and managed B-to-B E-commerce strategy, using Web services to achieve interenterprise interoperability, can increase business-operations efficiency, lower overall costs, and improve ROI.

--Humayun Beg

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