Honestly, I’d have my IT department doing this if I were you. But I’m not you, so I’m going to give you just enough information on evaluating a customer-driven architecture to make you want the IT department to do it.
CRM initiatives can be technically complex. Architecturally, they are based on web services and standards that are interoperable—and frameworks that incorporate those web services in some way. When it comes to architecture, there are competing platforms, such as .NET and J2EE. There are also various ways to address the services through different architectures, such as the service-oriented architectures and RESTful architectures mentioned above. But before we get to the architectures and the differences, let’s talk about web services.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the official standards body for web services, defines a web service as:
…a software system designed to support interoperable machine-tomachine interaction over a network. It has an interface described in a machine-processable format (specifically WSDL). Other systems interact with the Web service in a manner prescribed by its description using SOAP-messages, typically conveyed using HTTP with an XML serialization in conjunction with other Web-related standards.
What in the name of nomenclature does that even mean? In English, that means that web services provide a common way of “speaking” between computers via a network so that the action of one can be understood by the other and a response to the action can be sent that is understood by all concerned. Most important, it uses standards that are interchangeable between competing systems. For example, I send a request to the system to generate a form that will be used to enter a pricing quote for a client. To do that quote, I need to draw on the product catalog to get the most current pricing and to check inventory. My order management system is Oracle, my product catalog is in salesforce.com, and my inventory is SAP. Theoretically, because all of these use web services that are based on the same standards, it should be no problem to do that quote. Theoretically.
In order for that theoretically seamless communication to occur between competing systems, the web services need to meet certain criteria. There are certain components that are important for them to work effectively. Five of them to be specific.
Those five pillars:
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