IBM begins major revamp of its services business

IBM has rethought the way it bundles up and sells services, opting for an approach that is closer to how users already buy its hardware and software.


The vendor is due to begin rolling out the first two of what it terms "service products" worldwide today. The standardised offerings are designed to be used by any IBM customer, which represents a very different approach from the company's previous focus on providing customised, one-off services to individual users.

"This will enable us to access the market in a new way," Laurence Guihard-Joly, vice president of IBM's newly formed Integrated Communications Services (ICS) unit, said. "Our strategy is to get to the next level in services, to be brand-driven in the way our systems technology and software already are."

The first two services are Network Convergence Services Product and Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony Services Product. The network convergence bundle of services is aimed at customers keen to determine their readiness for adopting communications networks that combine support for data, voice and video. The IP telephony offering is for users looking to work with IBM and its partners including Cisco on designing, deploying and managing IP telephony infrastructure.

As part of the restructuring, IBM has taken what was the networking services piece of IBM Global Services (IGS) and turned it into a new business unit, ICS.

Although IBM's services business is a huge operation, its growth rate has appeared somewhat stagnant over recent quarters. In the company's most recent financial results, IBM reported IGS revenue fell 0.9 percent to US$11.9 billion compared with the year-ago quarter. IGS competes against Accenture, Capgemini and EDS.

"IBM is trying to invigorate its services business and propel it into growth faster than it has been," said Bob Djurdjevic, president of Annex Research. He expects IBM's rivals will also adopt the service product approach in areas where they have specific expertise to draw upon.

IBM plans to release around 30 service products by year-end. They will be a mix of brand-new offerings and existing assets that have been "reassembled, updated, hardened and tested," Guihard-Joly said. The products will include network management services around the Netcool software IBM acquired when it bought Micromuse and radio frequency identification (RFID) services.

Even with highly complex projects, Guihard-Joly believes about 80 percent of a customer's services needs could be met by IBM's new building block approach.

The new ICS business unit has four main focuses for its services -- converged communications; networking strategy and optimization; mobility, wireless and RFID; and network integration and management services.

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