Companies across various industries are implementing Web services pilot projects. These projects are demonstrating how Web services make integration with other enterprise applications simpler, faster, more productive and more cost-effective. As this technology matures and adoption becomes widespread, Web services will lower the cost and time associated with integration and enhance the value of existing IT investments.

For any enterprise to fully realize the value of an enterprise application, it must develop integrations with an array of other software applications that can reside within or outside a company's firewall. This has always created a costly and time-consuming IT challenge, which ultimately becomes a significant business challenge as well. It has led the business world to look toward the concept of Web services: software components that use open, XML-based standards to communicate among software applications. (For a more in-depth definition, please see the sidebar: Defining Web Services.) McKinsey & Co. estimates Web services can cut the time and money needed for systems integration – the largest IT expense – by up to 20 percent.1

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