Microsoft Signs Pact With First European Enterprise Alliance Partner

As part of an ongoing effort to expand its partnerships with global services companies, Microsoft Corp. has announced a 3-year alliance with ICL (Reston, Va.,,) a supplier of IT systems and services based in London.

ICL said it plans to add more than 4,000 employees as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers and Microsoft Certified Solution Developers to the company's existing 650 trained Microsoft sales and technical professionals.

ICL will also open seven solution centers -- three in the United Kingdom, two in the United States, one in Poland and one in Sweden -- to accelerate development of solutions based on Microsoft software.

The alliance is focused on four "go to market" sectors: retail, government, education and enterprise infrastructure integration. ICL said it will make Microsoft the standard platform for its retail applications, including GlobalStore, a store management system; PrecisionRetailing, a customer preference analysis tool; and InteractiveRetailing, a multimedia package for retailers.

In the government arena, ICL will work with Microsoft to develop a publicly accessible front-end computing infrastructure in Europe based on ICL's CAFExpress (Citizen Access Front End) system, which will provide access to information on government programs, offerings and entitlements.

ICL is already delivering the first components of the United Kingdom's National Grid for Learning, including the Merseyside Education Online Network, a network linking 15,000 students and 600 teachers to information and communications applications. In addition, ICL and Microsoft will develop a suite of educational software applications called ICON5, which will include Internet access control, IT systems administration tools and secure home access to school systems.

Under the alliance, ICL will also create and deploy a new integrated enterprise infrastructure based on Microsoft Exchange, Windows NT Server and other Microsoft software that will be integrated with workflow and document management systems and other large-scale business applications.

As a result of the deal, ICL will become Microsoft's first strategic enterprise alliance partner based in Europe. ICL has been working with Microsoft since 1982 on a variety of projects, including the first multitasking versions of Windows. ICL had already launched a Windows NT development center in Manchester, England, in January 1997.

Microsoft has had a strategy in place to create alliances with partners who can deliver global services and solutions for the past 18 months, according to Geoff Nyheim, director of consulting and system integrator partners for Microsoft. Before that, most of Microsoft's relationships were with systems integrators in specific local areas, he says.

Companies in specific countries or regions often feel more comfortable working with a company headquartered in the same area. But they want that company to be able to handle projects that may extend beyond the home base to offices or subsidiaries in other countries. Nyheim explains that having relationships with partners all over the world who have a global reach serves both needs.

Currently, there are 13 enterprise partners in the program, including ICL, he says. There are 10 to 12 other companies in the world that can provide global or near-global services, and Nyheim says Microsoft is in discussions with all of them to try to develop alliances. "Within 12 months, we'll have an additional half-dozen partners split between Europe and Asia," he says.

ICL, which is 90 percent owned by Fujitsu, expects the alliance to create more than 1,000 new jobs in Europe during its 3year duration. According to ICL chief executive Keith Todd, it should also bring ICL half a billion pounds (about $800 million) worth of new business.