It's easytoget lost in the technical minutiaeassociated with SOA and Web Services. Presented with a blizzard of acronyms (SOAP, SOBA, XML), business decision-makers might even be tempted to roll their eyes and walk away. But that would be a terrible mistake.
As Accenture's Anatole Gershman has written, the challenge for business leaders "is not tracking the technology or making sense of the standards behind Web services. It is understanding the opportunities that lie ahead. When Web services reach their full potential, they will change the way we do business."
Gershman contends that Web Services have the potential to redefine and radically grow our modern service economy. And we're not talking hamburger flipping here. We're talking about the dynamic, real-time matching of supply and demand for high value services -- much asCommodore Vanderbilt'srailroads and long distance communication made it possible tobuild national and global markets for a "product economy" of manufactured goods in the late19thcentury.
The Web services movement unbundles, liberates and extends the reach of today's services -- and arguably, services already represent two-thirds of GDP in advanced economies.As he puts it, "More and more, products will become a channel for service, and customer relationships will change because many newly possible services will be delivered dynamically...Existing suppliers will be able to deliver highly personalized services and maintain continuous customer interaction. Some may join the ranks of intermediaries who emerge to broker web services."
Gershman offers a few compelling examples of potential businesses made possible by Web services. Secondary markets for a company's market research. Automated, onlinemonitoring and performance management of a manufacturer's equipment. Home health monitoring services that provide security and companionship to the elderly. On-demand, GPS-linkedsecurity services that monitor a young woman walking to her car in a dark parking lot.
The next Bob Vila may even have an empire to build with Virtual Home Improvement Services. "Picture a homeowner having trouble installing a light fixture. What to do? Reread the instructions? They werent clear the first time. Hire a handyman? That's expensiveand it's Saturday night. Now imagine this: Still up on the ladder, the homeowner pulls a device containing a wireless microphone out of a pocket and describes the project and the problem. This prompts a computer to search for service providers and choose one who is available, qualified and affordable. The homeowner then turns on a wireless camera. The service provider and homeowner look at the problem, and then the homeowner follows step-by-step, real-time instructions. The charge is billed electronically."
These are the kinds of opportunities one might expect to emerge in the (Web) service economy of the near future.
Any other ideas come to mind? Any networked, service-driven businesses to pitch? Post them here and we can all play with them.Maybe we'll even lay the foundations for something big.