Looking outside for networking expertise

www.infoworld.com |  Business

"E-businesses need time to market, or what we call 'time to value,' " Chang says, as they seek to prove their business plan.

Chang points out that e-business needs are driving a packaged format for services, in which specific business goals are clearly spelled out in the service, rather than hourly rate consulting for individual pieces. For example, 3Com's e-business service packages range from basic productivity needs -- such as e-mail, Internet connection, and a Web site -- to more advanced service packages for business growth that can include a personalization engine, supply-chain integration, CRM (customer relationship management), and business-to-business strategy deevelopment.

Indicative of its partnering approach to meeting customer needs, last month Cisco announced a Professional Services Partner (PSP) program, which qualifies selected professional services companies to provide Cisco customers with services for network planning, design, implementation, and operation. Companies that initially qualified in the United States for the PSP program include KPMG Consulting, Datatec Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Global Services, and Unisys. Cisco also last year invested $1 billion in KPMG's Internet services business.

Cisco officials say e-commerce and the convergence of voice, video, and data are creating an increasingly complex business environment, which requires its small and large customers to deploy networks that demand specialized technology support.

Lucent's NetworkCare division recently introduced a consulting services package aimed at helping CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) with network operations and strategy. Lucent officials say its ServiceWorks is the first in a series of programs targeting specific markets. Future programs include ASPs (application service providers), enterprises, and the cable market, they add.

Other vendors making services plays include Nortel, which in February launched its Global Professional Services strategy for enterprises and service providers. Nortel officials say the company plans alliances with consulting firms to complement its internal consulting staff.

Analysts forecast that the need for professional services will continue.

"The professional services space is hot," Gartner/Dataquest's Goodness says. "It is about optimizing the enterprise environment. Getting that environment much more stable than it has been in past years and getting it ready for the next wave of technology, VOIP [voice over IP] convergence, [and] multimedia networks."

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