Return on investment (ROI) is the first issue that any corporation should consider before investing any resources in Web services. In fact, ROI is one of the primary factors that determines the adoption of Web services for all applications by companies of all sizes and in all sectors. Companies need to know how much they will have to invest in implementing a Web services-based solution and what the payoff will be, both near- and long-term.

I’ve identified the seven most important steps for achieving a higher ROI on your Web services implementation.

The steps
These steps are not presented in the order of their importance, because each one will have different significance and relevance within each company. However, to achieve a higher ROI, they should be followed sequentially. Also note that in most organizations, enterprise-wide behaviors must change to ensure the project delivers ROI. Technology alone will not produce the benefits projected in any ROI calculation. This will also hold true for ROI on Web services-based projects.

Step 1: Plan a Web services strategy
As a first step toward the usage and implementation of Web services, you need to plan a service-oriented architecture strategy across the firm. The strategy must clearly state the different internal and external applications and business processes that can be integrated using Web services over the corporate intranet and the Internet, the benefits associated with the migration strategy, and the technology and other resources required to achieve this transition.

Step 2: Determine short-term and long-term goals
For a successful Web services usage and implementation, identify both short- and long-term goals in the areas of adoption of SOA-based Web services. Consider both the internal and external systems of your company that are concerned. The short-term vs. long-term goals for the usage of Web services is dictated by the timeline used in the form of a future desired state.

Step 3: Leverage existing assets
The success of Web services within any company is determined by two critical factors: how well has it leveraged existing investments in corporate infrastructure and how well has it ensured flexibility for the future. Leveraging existing assets will probably have the highest impact on ROI for Web services.

Step 4: Choose the right solution and solution provider
With the right Web services solution, a company can design architecture that provides easy, secured, and reliable integration with trading partners’ ERP, CRM, legacy systems, portals and databases. As in Step 3, try using your existing assets as much as possible.

Step 5: Select an application as a pilot project and measure the ROI
This probably is the most basic step toward the usage of any new technology. Never go all out with a new technology (i.e., changing all existing systems to new systems) without first piloting it with an application and measuring its ROI.

Step 6: Recalibrate a firm-wide strategy and plan a phased rollout
The pilot project will reveal several requirements and factors that were missed in the planning phase of the Web services strategy. You will need to revisit and recalibrate your firm-wide Web services strategy based on the outcomes of the pilot project. After recalibrating the strategy, different groups within your IT organization can start participating in Web services initiatives as Web services providers, clients, or brokers.

Step 7: Measure/calculate ROI throughout the phased rollout
ROI within Web services-based projects will be realized when your entire organization is fully trained and competent with the SOA paradigm. A fast rollout and high system adoption rates enable ROI to be realized as quickly as possible.