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Web services: not just for big businesses any more

While most discussions of Web services applications to date involve large enterprises, the XML-based technology can play an important role in small businesses, said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC (www.zapthink.com), Waltham, Mass.

Developing Web services applications for small businesses, traditionally a source of job growth in recovering economies, could provide new opportunities for smaller VARs and consultants, Schmelzer told XML Report.

"Just as the Web created a significant opportunity -- some say a leveling of the marketing field -- for small businesses, Web services will represent a significant opportunity for small businesses to use Web services and for small consulting companies to implement Web services for small-, medium- or even large-sized companies," said Schmelzer.

In a "ZapFlash" report released this week titled "Web Services are for Small Businesses, Too," the ZapThink analyst noted that small businesses may be on the cutting edge in outward-facing Web services. Compared to large companies, smaller businesses tend to be standardized on hardware and software, so they won't be as likely to need Web services for internal integration.

"Rather than dealing with internal heterogeneous infrastructures, small businesses must integrate with their suppliers', customers', outsourced vendors' and partners' systems," Schmelzer wrote.

In the ZapThink view, small business can also move into the brave new world of offering services to the outside world.

Schmelzer noted that "small businesses also have lots to gain by exposing certain core business operations through Web Services. While business models for selling access to Web Services online is still mostly the stuff of fiction, companies can realize significant benefit by providing Web Services interfaces to products and services they already sell. For example, manufacturing companies can expose their inventory and shipping processes as Web Services so that their customers can get better visibility into ordering and fulfillment. The benefit to a small business of exposing certain of their operations is simple: making it easier to embed a company's processes into their customers' can increase sales, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage."

Schmelzer's full report can be read at www.zapthink.com/report.html?id=ZapFlash-09082003

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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