by Elana Varon

Best Practices for Successful Web Services Projects

Oct 01, 20033 mins
Web Development

1 Pilot, pilot, pilot (and plan to screw up).If you haven’t been experimenting with Web services in the past two years, don’t rush headlong into an enterprise deployment. “If there is one single factor that can help you minimize your risk, it’s understanding what you’re doing,” says Tom Welsh, senior consultant with the Cutter Consortium consultancy. “There are tremendous amounts of people running into production with things they don’t understand.”

Toby Redshaw, corporate vice president of IT strategy, architecture and e-business for Motorola, advises doing multiple prototypes to see where Web services offers the greatest bang for the buck—and making sure everyone knows some tests might fail. “I have a pilot that’s an absolute disaster,” he says. “Occasionally, we’re going to have blowups like that.”

2 Focus on architecture.”You’d never let anyone build a house without a blueprint,” observes Redshaw, and by the same token, you need a service-oriented architecture, which is designed to facilitate connection of software components, to deploy Web services most effectively.

As with many infrastructure investments, the ROI isn’t readily apparent. “In the past 20 years, IT was built to last, but in the next 10 years, the goal is building IT to change,” says Brand Niemann, a computer scientist who heads the federal CIO Council’s XML Web Services Working Group. “You won’t see the cost savings [of a service-oriented architecture] initially, but in the long run, it’s cheaper and creates a more agile organization.”

3 Remember that nothing is set in stone.Standards are fluid, software is maturing, and the Web services you deploy now may have to be rewritten sometime in the future. “You’re guessing the benefits outweigh the cost of recoding,” says Whit Andrews, research director with Gartner.

4 Involve the business.Every Web service is a component of a business process. Monica Shephard, director of command, control, communications, computer and combat systems with the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, has business managers decide which applications to convert to Web services and which legacy applications to kill. Some legacy systems will die a natural death, she says, but “sometimes the right thing to do is wait” until users have time to revamp their business processes to accommodate the new environment.

5 Communicate with your IT team.By its nature, Web services is interdependent, and unless all your software developers are subscribing to the same programming principles, you’ll end up with a mess of systems that won’t interoperate. For instance, everyone should use the same protocols and access databases the same way, says Danny Peltz, senior vice president of Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Internet Solutions Group. Educating developers about new data and communications protocols is being handled by Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Architecture Group through published documents, brown bag lunches and the existing process for reviewing new software.