upfront: Satisfaction Through Services

The world of IS isn't just about technology anymore; it's about the using technology as a means to an end. Increasingly, when IS departments are given marching orders to tackle a new project, the technology to complete the project is available. It's more a question of practical implementation.

When you couple the results-oriented demands of your company's brass with the growing challenge of finding and retaining competent personnel, you begin to see why the market for IT services is poised to erupt in such a big way over the next several months. While much of this growth can be attributed to companies looking for help with Year 2000 projects as they head into the home stretch, services are likely to continue to soar as IS departments tackle new projects in the new millenium.

"The services market is a trillion-dollar market," IBM Chairman and CEO Lou Gerstner told attendees at IBM's Business Partner Executive Conference in New Orleans earlier this year.

Computer giants like IBM, Compaq, Dell, HP and Gateway are helping themselves to pieces of this exceptionally large pie by bundling support services into hardware purchase and lease plans, including needs assessment, product specification, installation, training, maintenance, upgrades and repair.

IBM's Global Services division in particular targets six different areas for its offerings, also referred to as its Value Framework. These areas include e-business, business consulting, IT consulting, business transformation, total systems management and strategic outsourcing. A number of the Value Framework's areas are designed to overlap, enabling IBM to accommodate the implementation of cross-technology initiatives such as Virtual Private Networks.

Implementation of a VPN requires the careful consideration of security and connectivity, and often falls under the larger umbrella of e-business. What IBM and a number of third-party providers hope to do is offer IS departments a way to outsource such complex projects.

One company I've spoken with recently has developed a professional services division specifically to address the concerns of upper management. This company has taken a much more structured approach to the sales and support process. They've even added a final component to the cycle whereby they ask their clients whether or not an implementation has met their expectations.

When offered properly, services have the capability to benefit the client and the provider in ways that cannot be quantified simply in terms of cost and profit.

Please e-mail me with your thoughts or comments: greenemeierlg@midrangesystems.com.

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