Besides learning how e-business will apply to their own corporations internally and its relationships with customers, CIOs must also stay mindful of its implications for their relationships with their own suppliers.
In the e-business era, competition is no longer between discrete corporate entities, but between networks of companies. This means, as Wilton says, that there is no longer a single IT vendor able to supply a total solution. CIOs need to purchase from a network of suppliers, often through a systems integrator. Although this might provide access to best of breed products, it raises other formidable issues. "The real fundamental problem with these alliances," Wilton says, "is the accountability. This is a very big problem both on the supply and demand side, meaning the vendors of IT and the buyers of IT are both concerned about this.
"The problem is that there is no one throat to choke," Wilton says. "Many of those systems sold to enterprises today are driving mission-critical applications such as billing and accounting, but increasingly they are managing life-critical applications using an e-business infrastructure.
"Hospitals, emergency services and airlines - if the underlying infrastructure fails then it's lives that are at risk now. As the risk increases, the owner of that system wants one throat to choke and the challenge for the IT vendors is to stand up and say: Look this is a bundled solution - with hardware and software from different vendors - but if something goes wrong then I'm the throat to choke. I will not blame someone else'. Now at the moment in the IT world there are very, very, very few suppliers who will accept that responsibility - IBM GSA is one of them and this has become one of its points of differentiation.
"As a value proposition it's huge because, given that most users are pushing the edge of the envelope and pushing the hardware and software, there is no doubt that there will be breakdowns." Wilton says that only a few suppliers have yet recognised that managing this risk is the value proposition for IT suppliers going forward. "I can see a lot of vendors that refuse to take on that sort of responsibility will fall out of the picture," he says.
Those that do take on that role however, who boost their value proposition, who fine-tune their underlying processes and then fit the turbo-charger of e-business technology and techniques, will stand a better chance of becoming the old money in the new economy. vSix Sigma: A statistical term that refers to 3.4 defects per million opportunities (or 99.99966 per cent accuracy), which is as close as anyone is likely to get to perfect. A defect can be anything from a faulty part to an incorrect customer bill. Six Sigma teams use extremely rigorous data collection and statistical analysis to ferret out sources of errors and to find ways to eliminate them.
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