There is revolution in the air. I do not refer to any particular political power struggle, nor am I caught up in 60s nostalgia. The revolution of which I write is unfolding quietly throughout the world and has the potential to affect all businesses - whether or not they are even aware of it.
We live in an increasingly wired world, where business practices are in flux. The processes by which business is accomplished are becoming known quite simply as e-business and they represent the most dramatic changes the business world has ever encountered.
The e-business dynamic has created different markets and competitors - your business can be influenced dramatically by the actions of a company on the other side of the world. In the world of e-business, competition is heightened as time to market is reduced and margins decline.
Streamlining of the front-end operations (customer interface, and so on) is necessitating an equivalent level of efficiency in information systems. Organisations have to select an IT infrastructure which is capable of supporting not only their current needs, but one which can scale to meet the demands that burgeoning markets can place on their systems.
IT has become a crucial portion of competitive advantage. In the past, many organisations pursued a haphazard technology road map - merely adding servers to support their growing user base. These decisions were driven by the pace of change rather than a calculated IT growth strategy. For many companies, these extended networks are proving very expensive and difficult to maintain. Factors of cost and practicality associated with e-business are driving an IT trend for server consolidation, which entails more than just reducing the physical number of servers.
For businesses, reducing the total cost of ownership and enhancing functionality lie at the heart of any decision to consolidate. There are a variety of server consolidation strategies, all of which accentuate and combine the business benefits of restructuring. Every organisation will require a different solution to meet its IT needs.
Coping with the e-business revolution can create confusion and indecision within organisations. Selecting the ideal platform(s) to meet current and projected demands can be very difficult. As the complexity of systems increases, customers are looking for a one-stop shop that can act more as a partner than a vendor.
Vendors are aligning and reorganising in order to offer comprehensive systems packages rather than bits and pieces of hardware and software.
IT vendors are realising that they need to analyse each customer's business problems, not offer a quick sell. In short, the smart money is looking for a system provider, and any salesperson who offers something less is an also-ran. The establishment of systems groups within manufacturers provides a forum within which all the server divisions can pool their resources. In this way, each customer's requirements can be assessed individually with a systems-based approach.
Your business, regardless of its size, will require efficient and scalable information systems if it is to remain a fixture on the landscape of the e-business world. The best partner for this venture is a vendor that offers a comprehensive set of technology solutions and the consultation to put those into a meaningful context for each customer.
Mike Bernard is marketing manager at IBM systems group, northern region.
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