Can You Really Be Completely Hands-Off?
Systems can eliminate only the repetitive "rule-based" work. The manager still has to evaluate the supplier — though the system can obtain references and request samples — and oversee the process as a whole, for example.
This example assumes that the suppliers are also using standards such as UDDI, and that your own systems are fully .NET enabled. It won't happen tomorrow, except in our .NET demos. But the supporting technology is either ready or in beta test.
I don't know what the critical mass or "tipping point" is to make this scenario reality, but I believe it will happen. Web technologies had been available for a few years, but it was within a single year (1994 or thereabouts) that the Web just took off; enough people "got it," saw value, and started spreading the word.
Should you be out in the front of this wave? That depends on your business and your resources, among other things. What I suggest, even for those who know they'll wait for the wave to crest, is that you get familiar with the technologies, what they offer, and how they'll likely affect your business. Your boss expects you to have the answers! Someday, in the not too distant future, your customers will expect these answers too.