Cost savings, business efficiencies and the ability to become supplier-independent will drive a widespread adoption of Web services technology by the end of the year.
This will be the prediction of several keynote speakers at this week's XML and Web Services 2002 conference, in London.
Web services is a broad term for integration technology which provides a common language for applications to speak to each other over the Internet.
For this reason it is being cited as a means of allowing data to be drawn from legacy applications and assembled into portals within the business as well as providing a means of allowing business partners to communicate in real time - for example, providing up-to-the-minute supply chain information.
David Robinson, technical director of Bowstreet, said, "Web services will give a great cost saving because it allows integration of existing software.
"The Web services interface reduces the cost of exposing information to Web applications - and when you've done it once you can do it time and again so business can be more agile.
"Users can potentially free themselves from the shackles of one supplier because this is the first time that they [the suppliers] have agreed on such a set of standards," he added.
Standards used for integrating information from disparate applications include XML (eXtensible Markup Language) to carry data, Soap (Single Object Access Protocol) and UDDI (universal discovery, description and integration) to establish connections between sources of information.
Stuart Watkins, business development manager at Software AG, supplied an example. "Electrical retailer Apollo used Web services to transform its stock management system into its Web shop. It looks like a normal Web site but it is based on integration of its product data and built from there upwards.
"Developments like this represent the consolidation of the business independence of IT, giving greater business agility and a massively decreased cost of ownership once the Web services environment has been put in place."
Businesses do, however, have to plan carefully in implementing Web services and aim for achievable targets, said Robinson.
"Determine the level of granularity required - have Web services carrying out simple discrete functions and link them together rather than try and build them to describe overarching multiple functions," he said.