IBM Launches ERP Services

The bear of a corporate network is no doubt enterprise resource planning (ERP). It's big, expensive, difficult to integrate, hard to understand, and terribly complex to manage. By flushing out the custom applications and individual solution software packages throughout the enterprise, ERP seems to be a logical choice to take their place.

So what happened? Well, your ERP doesn't integrate with your partners' ERP, you decided to roll this puppy out before you had a clue as to how the Internet might effect your business, and you found the entire process of how to run your business has changed to accommodate software that was supposed to be accommodating you.

Enter IBM Global Services, a division of IBM Corp. ( and its "Extended Enterprise Services" for post-ERP implementation, facilitating organizational change and training, and other services to help companies more fully leverage their investment in ERP.

"Many companies over the past five or six years have implemented packaged software to overwrite custom packages," says Michael Plymack, practice executive for enterprise application solution centers for IBM Global Services. "What IBM is finding is there's a need after these systems are implemented or while they're rolled out, to focus on the smooth integration of these packages into business processes as well as support of the applications because they become critical to the lifeblood of the business."

The first part of the offering is Enhanced ERP Organization Change Services. The program identifies changes in the way work we'll be done with the new ERP system and designate personnel who will be resistant to these changes, to reduce problems and support a smoother adaptation of the new business processes. "The change management services are very important because if the systems aren't used or used properly the companies don't get the ROI," Plymack says.

For those doing the back-breaking work of implementing ERP, the next part of the service is Expanded ERP Training Services. This is used primarily as a preparation mechanism for getting companies to reduce time to implementation, and increase the usefulness of the system once it's implemented.

Next is the Post-ERP Optimization Services that take over where the roll-out left off. While providing expertise on how to operate the system now in place, the Optimization Services also help to extend enterprise systems by adding ERP modules and extending the system to more users. Key extensions to ERP include supply chain management, customer relationship management, e-commerce and business intelligence.

IBM also offers Traditional IT Infrastructure Consulting and Implementation Services that are enhanced to support an investment in ERP. Throughout the rollout, IBM will offer industry templates and best practices for going live on time, increase ERP efficiency, and highlight potential extensions to the Web, links to business intelligence tools, and data warehousing solutions for better use of corporate knowledge.

"There's an opportunity as you roll the package out to make the system better and more responsive," Plymack says. "It helps to keep the system dynamic so it can be changed quickly for acquisitions and adding new groups."

Business Continuity and Recovery Services provide the safety net to this comprehensive investment in ERP. The service begins with a one-day workshop to assess the company's existing ERP Continuity plan before IBM submits its recommendations for a comprehensive continuity strategy. The services include business impact analysis; continuity, backup and recovery planning, audit, and testing; ERP application, database, and telecommunications continuity, backup, and recovery; and a selection of high availability and disaster recovery services.

"Because IBM provides hardware and services and networking and e-commerce, because we touch so many customers, we find we have some visibility into what the needs are for a broad range of customers as well as vendors who provide just one of those [solutions]," Plymack explains. "That includes our support of NT. We're one of the largest providers, if not the largest, of services in the NT environment. Our support of NT, whether it be through products, to providing customer services, or whether it be the fact that NT runs on IBM hardware, we have great visibility into the needs of those customers."

IBM also offers complete outsourcing of ERP solutions, as well as a new "Sourcing and Procurement" service that takes application outsourcing a step further to include IBM management of the entire Internet supply chain. According to Big Blue, the new service is based on IBM's own efforts that enabled the company to save more than $6 billion on supply purchases.

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