Enterprise applications have the potential to dramatically improve productivity, reduce costs and increase efficiencies in both front- and back- office business units, including sales, customer service, marketing, manufacturing, engineering/design, accounting and human-resource organizations. However, to be truly effective, these applications need to present users with key information from their own data sources, as well as from related internal and external applications. Today's ambitious enterprise application integration (EAI) projects, which aim to link applications by automating complex business processes, are years away from completion.

For many organizations, Web services offer a truly feasible alternative to these custom, lengthy and expensive EAI projects by providing an open, standards-based way to achieve interoperability and customization that is flexible and maintainable over time. Companies across an array of industries face the challenge of selecting the right Web services application programming interface (API) to embed vital information delivery functions into their internal and external applications to establish flexible, standards-based integration that is truly "future- proof."

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