IBM moves to standard playbook for services business

IBM Tuesday said it is changing the way it delivers some of its communications services in order to iron out any inconsistencies – particularly for projects that are rolled out in multiple sites.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges with this, even internally at IBM,” explained IBM Canada’s convergence practice leader Marc Seeman. “You have different places, you have different cultures, you have different types of customers – and many of those customers want different types of things.”

IBM is moving towards a “productization” of services, said Seeman, to ensure that these differences don’t effect their delivery to end customers. As such, implementation methods, including architectural models, techniques and testing processes, will be similar regardless of location.

To help achieve these goals, IBM is creating a new business unit called Integrated Communications Services. The unit will be responsible for drawing up a standard play book to oversee various technologies like mobility, wireless, RFID, and network services. Key among those will be IP-based network convergence projects that involve voice, data, messaging, call centres and Web conferencing.

By following standard rollout models, IBM should be also able to deliver ongoing technical support in a more effective way, said Seeman.

But Seeman acknowledges that total standardization in the services arena isn’t plausible or even always desired. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach but “a living, breathing set of guidelines that is not static or rigid.” There will always be customers that require a degree of customization, he said.

The most appropriate use of the formula approach is for customers that require rollouts in multiple office locations, he said. “They want the way implementation services for IP telephony, for example, to be done same way in Vancouver as New York or Paris.”

Canadian law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain is facing its own IP rollout in multiple locations. Its headquarters are in Toronto, but it also operates in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal.

Currently Toronto and Ottawa are live on an IP network, said the firm’s manager of IT systems Dave Komaromi, with the other offices to be added over the 12 months.

The firm has relied heavily on IBM Global Services in the past, said Komaromi, and is using them again for its IP network. The “productized” approach makes sense for Big Blue, he said, since standardization is important, particularly for a company like Fraser Milner Casgrain that operates in multiple locations.

“I think it allows (IBM) the basis to put in a solid infrastructure to build upon IT telephony and all the other components (of IT),” he said, adding that IBM has shown itself capable of customizing its approach when necessary. “That’s where the engineers really start kicking in and looking at your environment, needs and the integration possibilities.”

Most recently, Fraser Milner Casgrain used IBM’s services for a video rollout. IBM is connecting VT Advantage Cisco cameras to lawyers’ PCs. By running the cameras over the IP telephony network they will have access to a video-conferencing solution that can be used at the desktop level. Komaromi said 300 lawyers in Toronto will be able to use the system in the next month.

According to Seeman, IBM’s productized services approach will eventually allow for standardized rollouts using other vendors’ products like those from Cisco. The approach will also be available through partners eventually, but IBM is concentrating its efforts on its Global Services organization for now.

Seeman said customers can expect to see “productized” services early next year.

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