Anyway, I wanted to pick up our discussion from lunch last week to see if there might be a way to use your ideas about Web services to help implement  these  initiatives.  You  were  pretty  bullish  on  the  whole  Web services thing, so lets continue with that for a bit. Dunston leaned back in  his  chair  and  looked  expectantly  at  Sedgewick,  waiting  for  him  to begin. Sedgewick decides to recap their previous discussion and then apply it to these newly articulated business strategies. Bob,  you  remember  how  I  described  what  Web  services  are,  right? The definition I like best is one Ive synthesized from all the trade rags Ive been  reading.  Heres  my  definition  of  Web  services.  Web  services  are loosely  coupled,  self-describing  services  that  are  accessed  programmati- cally across a distributed network and exchange data [or information with one another] using vendor, platform and language-neutral protocols. They are  software  modules  or  applications  that  are  designed  to  be  run  across Intranets  or  the  Internet  using  the  underlying  protocols  that  the  World Wide Web is based upon today. Dunston leans in with interest. So, give me an example, Sedgewick. Well, Sedgewick replies, think of when you said you wanted to see inventory informationlets say work-in-process inventory. In order to do that,  you  would  need  information  from  multiple  locations  from  multiple Manufacturing  Execution  Systems  (MES)  and  multiple  Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) systems, right? Yes, and its a pain in the neck to do that, right? Dunston half asks and half states. It is and it isnt, replies Sedgewick. These days, you would typi- cally use tools such as Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) that spe- cialize  in  tying  disparate  systems  together.  There  are  a  bunch  of products that do this today, and they vary in what they do and how they do  it.  They  can  be  expensive,  and  require  adapters  or  interfaces  to  tie into back-end systems and extract information in the manner in which it is desired. It depends on the business need that drives the use of the tool. Sedgewick  continues,  Now,  lets  suppose  you  want  to  get  inventory information from the manufacturing execution systems and ERP systems in three different plants in three different geographies to update an inventory management portal. Sedgewick stands up and walks to the whiteboard, unwrapping a Snickers bar while he uncaps a dry erase marker. He draws a blue box to represent headquarters and three additional blue boxes to rep- resent  the  international  manufacturing  sites.  We  have  a  portal  running here  at  headquarters,  and  we  are  populating  the  portal  with  real-time inventory updates from the plants. That means we have to gather informa- tion from the ERP system at each plant. SAP in this plant, JD Edwards for 4 EXECUTIVES GUIDE TO WEB SERVICES 74188_WY_Marks_01  2/5/2003  4:08 PM  Page 4