Paul Loftus: IBM's general manager of solutions and integration discusses the ASP phenomenon

By Mark Leon, InfoWorld |  Software

PAUL LOFTUS IS the general manager of solutions and integration for IBM's Software Group. His mission is to help Big Blue create vertical industry solutions with a focus on new Internet-enabled business opportunities. And many of these new solutions, he thinks, will come as ASP (application service provider) offerings. InfoWorld Contributing Editor Mark Leon talked with Loftus about the ASP phenomenon and what it means to IBM.

InfoWorld: What does ASP mean to IBM?

Loftus: We view it through the lens of the customer. And we think it means efficiency for the customer and value-add to their overall operation. It is a way to provide skills and growth without having to depend on and build your own IT staff. That is an incredible advantage in today's marketplace. The other thing we are hearing from customers is that the ASP model provides them with a quicker way to get to market. Frankly, when we started to hear about this [ASP model] a couple of years ago, there was a fair amount of skepticism. But it is now starting to resonate around some of the topics I just mentioned.

InfoWorld: Initially we heard about ASPs in the context of ERP [enterprise resource planning] applications for the Fortune 100. Has this changed?

Loftus: To some extent these ERP applications did get people to start taking the ASP model seriously. But now interest has shifted to e-commerce applications, both b-to-b [business-to-business] and b-to-c [business-to-consumer]. We started exploring the ASP concept three or four years ago, before the term was even coined. This was with banks, insurance companies, and health care providers. And it was very focused on b-to-b and b-to-c Internet applications.

InfoWorld: How do you see today's corporate CTO?

Loftus: We absolutely have identified the CTO as someone who is very distinct from the more traditional CIO. The CTO is the one who is, without a doubt, going to be linked to new lines of business within the company, specifically to the new growth areas in e-commerce. A few years ago we reorganized ourselves into three basic business structures: brands, global services, and an industry-oriented business unit that was directed at driving leadership projects. Brands and global services historically had very close relationships with the CIOs and large data-center operations. But the third industry-oriented unit began to really focus on the CTO. We saw this coming three to four years ago; that is, we saw the emergence of the CTO as someone who works much more closely with the leaders in the various lines of business. And these CTOs were driving far more of the decisions around what applications would be prioritized, and we saw the trend even go beyond that to the point of vendor selection, etc. So the CTO became a very key person in our go-to-market strategy.

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