Web Services Integration26 Jan, 2009 By: Laurel B Sanders imageSource
Web Services Integration
2009 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of
Astronomy, marking Galileo’s groundbreaking telescopic discoveries of the
universe in 1609. Galilei provided the foundation for understanding
ever-changing planetary bodies, how they connect people around the globe, and
how their constant transformation affects our lives. His findings launched a
worldwide fascination about how planets and stars assemble, evolve, and work
Technology integration is not unlike astronomy. Behind customers’ familiar
screens is a collection of isolated technologies used for everyday business.
From word processing and spreadsheets to databases, CRM software,
line-of-business applications and more, each purchase is a precious star in the
constellation of business solutions.
Yet on their own, even the best applications often fail to reach their full
potential. Data is pulled, copied, pasted, and re-keyed. Time is wasted as
users seek and transfer critical information. Routine processes are slowed as
users log into multiple applications, resize windows and work spaces, and adjust
their desktops so they can access what they need efficiently. By connecting
their applications with enterprise content management (ECM) software
underwritten in Web services, however, customers can tap into diverse
technologies easily. This enables a seamless exchange of vital information
behind the scenes and makes better use of staff resources.
This article honors the International Year of Astronomy with a telescopic
view of the universe of diverse and changing technologies, showing how they can
work together synergistically to benefit your customers. It highlights the role
of Web services in enabling seamless integration, and provides a checklist of
questions dealers should ask vendors as they assess their options for optimal
Technology integration: it’s written in the stars
In today’s competitive marketplace, everyone strives to do more with less.
One of the most common ways (and least popular) is to increase the expectations
and workloads of employees while minimizing additional overhead. Longer hours
and more stress for workers are not easily accepted. In contrast, clever
integration offers a new, agreeable definition of ‘doing more with less’…and
Many business applications have reached maturity, so connecting them is the
next logical step. Products underwritten with a strong Web services API
(application programming interface) deliver power and functionality to end users
without adding new software to learn. Managers can give each employee access to
the specific features and functionality he or she needs with the simple addition
of powerful buttons on each user’s desktop.
Content management: a solid foundation for Web services
An ECM system that is completely underwritten in Web services provides a
foundation for optimal integration with multiple systems. ECM software serves as
a digital repository for all of a company’s content, centralizing information
and facilitating access to documents and data. Whether the source is email,
voice mail, faxes, or data captured from paper, online forms, bar codes, or
line-of-business software, the content management system houses the data or
points to its location elsewhere. If the ECM system has robust Web services and
includes BPM, bar code software, imaging, or other capabilities, these services
can call all of the features and functions within each product. These services
can routinely request data sets, run queries, request images, or initiate
Web Services can be called from a variety of platforms and from diverse
programming languages. From an end-user point of view, they act as a middleman,
making calls like the telephone operator of the past. The services request
information that is needed routinely; pull reports; forward files; and perform
other functions the user frequently needs. Ideally, when they are part of an
integrated ECM solution, this happens within a single interface. There is no
need to exit open applications or log into others to execute commands, and no
need for a library of passwords. Users stay logged into their main application,
simply clicking on added menu items or buttons to execute commands.
Connecting the dots
Let’s take a look at two real-world examples that show how Web services
respond swiftly to corporate calls for action, pulling an enterprise’s global
information wherever it is needed.
Imagine you have a customer who manages an underwriting department. The
customer is tasked with lowering departmental overhead, and she determines a
cost center that can be eliminated. Currently, she runs a second shift to follow
up on returned mail. She decides to scan returned mail that is labeled “invalid
address.” Postal barcodes are read, identifying each Insured. An automated
workflow triggers an automated calling system, alerting each Insured of the
problem. The Insured contacts the company with relevant data by going online and
updating the address information. The second shift is eliminated, resulting in
substantial savings in overhead costs.
Let’s say you have a customer from a university enrollment office that
handles college admissions, student loans, and class registrations. The
institution is struggling to compete with other colleges and universities in
attracting and retaining students. Management needs to find a way to increase
productivity, enroll new students faster, and make sure current students’ needs
are satisfied promptly.
Using ECM with Web services, they decide to integrate the different modules
from their Student Information System (enrollment management, alumni management,
etc.) with areas such as academic advisement, student administration, student
records, and more, improving each area’s efficiency. Service is faster, errors
and redundancy are eliminated, and the institution is more successful in
enrolling and retaining top students.
Question checklist: finding the star performers
An ECM solution that is underwritten in robust Web services promises the
moon – and figuratively can deliver it. Still, there are specific questions you
should ask your vendors. This checklist will help you compare products –
against each other, and against your clients’ needs.
Is the vendor’s entire product line underwritten in Web services, or does it
just support part of the product line’s functionality? Is a back-end solution
offered that can integrate with my clients’ line-of-business applications? Does
the vendor offer an open and flexible solution that is easy to install and use
in a variety of departments, companies, and industries? Are the ECM solution and
Web services extensible enough to integrate with almost any type of technology?
Are Web services included in the price, or is there an extra cost each time
API calls or requests are made? Does the vendor’s pricing fit my clients’ size
and budget? Will the pricing methodology nickel and dime my customers?
Does the vendor’s reputation for quality ECM and service match my own
reputation? Are the Web services provided as part of the product, or as a
toolkit? If it’s a toolkit, will the vendor provide support, or will I be on my
Can my customers test Web services calls before they invest in the solution?
Does the vendor have customers who can verify stellar integration using their
Choose a good content management product that is underwritten in solid Web
services, with a single interface, quick connections, and the ability to provide
the information and global overview your customers need. If you choose wisely,
you will discover a universe of unlimited possibilities for your clients. Your
customers will thank their lucky stars – for the product, and maybe even for
Laurel Sanders is the Director of Public Relations & Communications for
Optical Image Technology, Inc., developers of the DocFinity suite of imaging,
document management & workflow products (www.docfinity.com)