MEETING and talking with IBM officials is perhaps the closest one will get to coming into contact with modern-day zealots.
But instead of spewing doom and disaster over the listener's stubborn resistance to convert, these zealots prefer a more impassioned approach to educate and inform, as a group of journalists from South-East Asia and India recently discovered over four days of media briefings in New York and Rochester, Minnesota.
Having hauled itself back from the brink of breaking up a decade ago, IBM is eager for others to benefit from its experience. More to the point: IBM wants to be the role model in e-business on-demand. Interesting enough, IBM has not exactly arrived in on-demand and senior vice-president of enterprise on-demand transformation and information technology Linda Sanford, put in charge of internal e-business on-demand in January, would be first to admit that IBM is at the end of integration, starting on-demand.
Compared with its customers who are mostly at the end of access or integration, however, IBM was positioned well to move to on-demand and would, in fact, expect to record total cost savings of US$6bil by Dec 31, 2003 after having integrated its supply chain, she said.
Speaking on IBM's on-demand transformation: reinventing the enterprise at IBM's corporate headquarters in Armonk, New York, Sanford said in the area of on-demand workplace, IBM set up an employee portal that incorporated among others, expertise locator, opportunity marketplace and e-learning. Today, the portal had achieved 100% employee use while productivity had gone up 5%, she added.
She said IBM was in the process of being reinvented, having embarked on a journey that was not ending anytime soon.
We have projects planned for next year and beyond and will continue to change. I believe on-demand (business) is at the stage of beginning? it's a journey that has clearly definable measurements.''
IBM's e-business on-demand strategy is the heart of chief executive officer Samuel Palmisano's plan to restore the Big Blue to its glory days. The project already gobbles up a third of IBM's yearly US$5bil research and development budget.
In recent years, IBM has purchased software and services companies to build its vision of on-demand computing in which businesses use technology to better manage purchasing and inventory and pay only for computing that they use. It has also divested many commodity hardware businesses, such as hard disk drives.
According to Devajit Mukherjee, vice-president strategy and marketing, e-business on-demand, IBM Global Services, the information technology (IT) industry will increasingly be more customer-driven than vendor-driven.
The IT industry landscape likewise has to be revised to technology supporting three types of values: business (services and software to improve business performance), infrastructure (hardware, software and services integrated into a computing environment) and component (individual components; compared with technology value comprising technology components).
In launching its on-demand strategy, IBM had among others, acquired PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, set up an engineering and technical services division and established technical partnerships, he said.
More revenue and operating profit come from software and services than hardware or technology. Technology is important as enablers but over time, we expect growth from higher levels.
The more value you create for the customer, the more they are willing to pay. The challenge for IBM on demand is to team up with customers to solve industry-specific problems, he said.
IBM staff do not take challenges lightly and over at Rochester where the company has its Executive Briefing Centre and e-server manufacturing facility, the commitment to developing new services, technologies and integrated solutions to help its customers become on- demand businesses - and spreading the news - is equally evident.
Although technical, the presentations on the iSeries e-servers and collaborative efforts with Linux, Power5, Lotus, WebSphere and PeopleSoft, served to reinforce the view that when IBM decides on a mission, its people - from the top down - jump aboard for the journey with a passion that can leave outsiders a little breathless.
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