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What makes ASP so promising is its distinctive ability to help organizations operate more flexibly and collaborate more successfully with business partners (Bender-Samuel, 1999). Consumer and technology publications have touted ASPs as the next big technology. Using ASPs, businesses and consumers would plug into software/computer-processing utilities and rent rather than buy applications. No more installation headaches. No more concerns with daily backups. No need to upgrade hardware or software frequently. No more IT departments haggling over budgets. ASPs would allow unlimited, instant scalability. ASPs would provide all the advantages of computer technology without the tears. But this has not happened as predicted, at least not yet. ASPs are going belly-up and threatening the viability of their business customers. Cost savings have not materialized as expected. Problems, such as integrating hosted and legacy applications, prove intractable or more challenging than expected. The rigidity of hosted offerings constrains business flexibility and competitive differentiation. All the really hard problems (people-related issues) do not disappear with the ASP solution. In fact, sometimes they increase. There are probably as many definitions of “ASP” as there are businesses claiming to be one; though not all ASPs have the same focus (see Figure 2).
There is no disputing that basic Web services can offer value. The concern is they are undoubtedly limited by the multitude of problems—security and reliability being the biggest, followed closely by vendor hype. These issues are further hindered by the reclassification of projects—legacy applications integration, for instance, is nowadays considered a Web services project. Nevertheless, the real value of Web services comes from the ability to deliver software as a service. According to Mark Dearnley, Chief Technical Officer of BOOTS:
Most of the ASP/Web services vision is just pure speculation, with no real consideration of what is achievable and what it will cost to actually build out the vision for full use on the open Internet.
The authors hope this chapter has addressed a few of your questions on ASP management, including how to deal with human resources and how to make the most of the technology. You have also seen that technology is, perhaps, the easiest thing to replace, but people and the IS implementation process are much harder. Offering management a method to obtain newer, faster technology without significant capital outlay can be a powerful tool to eliminate the resistance that IT managers typically experience when trying to implement a new system. With some initial investigation of the ASP vendors available to support inter-organization’s chosen project, a new IOIS could be in the future.
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