What remains unclear in the early part of the 21st century concerning the linkage between Internet investment production and the ASP market, is the extent to which the rate of ASP-like services productivity will continue to rise in the face of slower advances in the Internet Stock market. According to Forester Research, the proportion of ASP business in the outsourcing market peaked at about $800m in 2000 and was projecting for $25 billion by 2005. However, it actually declined by the year 2001 (due partly to the effect of stock market collapse) and is currently being projected at $15 billion by 2006. The overall business interests in the ASP model will continue to rise with proportionally higher rates of investment by vendors versus traditional outsourcing. We attribute this optimistic forecast to four trends:
Continuing improvements in capabilities and cost-performance characteristics of Remote Support Services by vendors;
Improvements in capabilities and cost-performance characteristics of the technology at the system or application level;
Continual development of the telecommunications infrastructure to support ASP performance; and
Gradual reduction of institutional and social barriers to the introduction of the ASP model as a viable business strategy.
In the seemingly fast-paced world of the 21st century, change is the only constant and therefore event horizons are immediate. Considering that intelligent enterprises cannot predict what they will need or how they will act in a year's time. Web services are enterprises current tools best suited with the ability to bridge the multiplicity and complexity of existing IT infrastructures. Such usefulness of ASP to an intelligent enterprise is as important as any other in the 21st century collaborative business environment. Web services are self-contained, modular business process applications that Web users or Web connected programs can access over a network—usually by a standardized XML-based interface and in a platform-independent and language-neutral way. This makes it possible to build bridges between systems that otherwise would require extensive development efforts. Such services are designed to be published, discovered, and invoked dynamically in a distributed computing environment. By facilitating real-time programmatic interaction between applications over the Internet, Web services may allow companies to exchange information more easily in addition to other offerings like leverage information resources and integrate business processes.
Users can access some Web services through a peer-to-peer arrangement rather than by going to a central server. Through Web services systems can advertise the presence of business processes, information, or tasks to be consumed by other systems. Web services can be delivered to any customer device and can be created or transformed from existing applications. More importantly, Web services use repositories of services that can be searched to locate the desired function so as to create a dynamic value chain. The future of Web services go beyond software components, because they can describe their own functionality as well as look for and dynamically interact with other Web services. They provide a means for different organizations to connect their applications with one another so as to conduct dynamic ASP across a network, no matter what their applications, design or run-time environment.
Web services represent a significant new phase in the evolution of software development and are unsurprisingly attracting a great deal of media and industry hype. Like almost all new internet-related technologies, the immediate opportunities have been overstated, although we believe the eventual impact could be huge. This can be demonstrated by the immediate and key role of Web services which is to provide a paradigm shift in the way business manages IT infrastructure. It provides intelligent enterprises with the capability of overturning the accepted norms of integration and thereby allowing all businesses to rapidly and effectively leverage the existing IT and information assets at their disposal.
Intelligent enterprises currently running an outsourcing service are already seen to be one of the early gainers of the Web service revolution. However, there will be others as enterprises discover the hidden value of their intellectual assets. Considering most enterprises have until now used the Internet to improve access to existing systems, information and services, we envisage the days when web services promise new and innovative services that are currently impossible or prohibitively expensive to deploy. With such developments anticipated to promote the ASP business model, web services integration is considered to be at the heart of this expectation. Through this process of connecting businesses, ASP will be able to quickly capitalise on new opportunities by combining assets from a variety of disparate systems, creating and exposing them as web services for the end-game of fulfilling customer expectations.
It is our view that any intelligent enterprise considering the ASP business model should at least investigate the potential impact of web services integration as this will sooner or later become another permanent business necessity and not a competitive advantage material. Those intelligent enterprises that have adopted our suggested approach will not only gain advantage now in business for lower costs and better return on assets, but are also expected to develop valuable experience for the first decade of the 21st century. Considering the Internet's history, as Web services become the standard and the expertise of ASP become more established, it should become the norm.
Diagram 3 shows that a holistic approach to technology always seems to work better than a piecemeal approach to information systems solution.
Diagram 3: Evolution of Web Services.
Web Services, as it is currently is like a two-legged table. A version of Web Services Plus being practiced by few vendors after the dot.com crash is represented by the three-legged table above. But an even more successful model of Web Services Plus would be a properly architecture four-legged table, represented above. The analogy here is that a two-legged table is less stable than a three-legged table while a four-legged table is even firmer.
It doesn't make sense to emphasis the social and technical resources and constraints of a new industry (like ASP) without thinking about the future of the resulting information system. While no one can say, with any degree of certainty, what the future holds, it is always possible to speculate on the nature of changes. Such consideration of future conditions usually helps to avoid some of the problems identified during the early stages of IS analysis. Land, in his study of future environments and conditions, came up with a theory of 'future analysis' (Land, 1987). Here are four areas of our concern from Land's future analysis theory:
Prediction of possible changes: This area looks at the kinds of changes that are possible, i.e., technological, legal, political or economic. It requires the investigation of context and situation of the organization in which the work is being done. Other items needed to help with this investigation include, structure plans, prediction of midterm development of the institution that could be a medium plan. This is meant to devise an appropriate system analysis stage of the development process thereby giving some idea of the type of expansion, contraction, and change that will occur and which the incoming system will have to deal with.
Likely outcome of system: Here one takes a peep into the future assuming the like effects of an improved information system. There are certainly all kinds of disruptive and constructive events that may be related to the development of a new system. Few of the most pertinent ones with regards to ASP implementation are: staff redundancy, change of loyalty of existing IS staffs, new reporting procedures, etc.
Features susceptible to change: This looks at the features of the proposed system that are more susceptible to change. Questions such as, where would one expect the new system to change first and whether this can be planned for, come into play here. Other issues involved here are if certain data would need to be collected or some existing collection procedures would need to change. And, even if some existing sections or divisions would continue to maintain their structures.
Horizon of the system: One would look at the extent and horizon of the system. It is at this stage that an ASP would begin to think in terms of the long-term view. While we admit this is obviously guesswork, it gives one a sense of humility in the initial design and requires an ASP vendor to speculate as to how what is being planed today may be the building block for further developments into the long term future.
The pursuit of technical efficiency in the operation of various complex technologies required by ASP to operate in the 21st century will continue to require skillful management of these technologies and the technical personnel needed to operate and maintain the tools. An intelligent enterprise activity will largely be concerned with managing the technical attributes of ASP tools and not with the management of the use and intellectual content of the information and knowledge. While such management will focus on internal operations, and largely a middle-management and professional-staff function, that stage of information-management development will continue to expand as more complex technologies (i.e., Web Services) are introduced in intelligent enterprises. It can be argued that an enterprise could well rest at a plateau where cost savings are usually quite significant, but such enterprises will soon encounter unanticipated difficulties because of organizational and operational problems. One of such is usually the fact that integrating the ASP technologies often demands new structures and functions that many businesses are not prepared to assume. If the use of ASP, as a converging technology is to be effective, much more emphasis will need to be placed on business management of information resources and management personnel who will define and direct the use of these assets and resources in the organization. Even more pressing, are the pressures for change in adopting a more management-oriented view of this domain that are arising from various stakeholders (both internal and external) who are beginning to recognize the enormous potential for profitability and productivity embedded in the emerging products and services of the ASP industry.