InternetWeek has an article
on Nobilis Software
, a 40 person software start up that is offering what just may be the first "killer app" for Web services. The company has just launched a tool that allows power users to create simple enterprise-wide web services applications that use nothing more than the Microsoft Office applications that most users already have on their desktop.
In the real world, many internal business processes such as budgeting, forecasting, and expense reporting are performed by users creating Excel worksheets and emailing them back and forth to each other and eventually rolling them up into a master worksheet. These are the sort of informal, cumbersome processes that consultants try to automate with ERP systems.
However, the Nobilis tools essentially allow such informal processes to be formalized and integrated by means of Web services. Users keep on working with Excel worksheets (or whatever other MS Office document is needed), but Web services are used to define the business rules and to handle the workflow and data integration. It's an idea that resonates with a number of principles: it is simple, it is cost effective ($99 per user desktop), it uses technology that businesses already have, and it doesn't ask users to change the way they are already doing things. If Nobilis's idea catches on, we might see a significant jump in the adoption of Web services.
As a side note, don't think that Nobilis's innovation is a potential breakthrough for Microsoft's .NET framework--Nobilis has built its Web services platform using J2EE. A CRN article has the details