Back to the Basics

Full service may be over for some Web integrators, but is Razorfish seeking a suitor?

Is it the end of end-to-end?

Web integrators were once keen on spanning the services spectrum from branding to back-end integration. An emergence of companies able to develop an online brand, design a Web site, and integrate relevant applications seemed a promising trend.

But MarchFirst had been an end-to-end standard bearer only to end up in the liquidation process. Now, Razorfish, another high-visibility Internet services firm, also may be scaling back its ambitions.

Jean-Philippe Maheu, Razorfish CEO, recently pointed out during a conference call with analysts that the companys role in coding large-scale applications "will diminish" over time.

He says Razorfish will continue to write code for prototype and proof-of-concept projects, but it might bring in partners for coding large applications. Maheu says discussions with potential partners are under way.

A Razorfish spokeswoman, however, says Maheus comments represent "just some ideas they were formulating. Right now there is really nothing concrete."

A move to reduce coding activities could signal a refocusing on strategy, creative design and technical architecture, a different move given that creative design shops are scrambling to take on the heavy lifting of application integration projects.

Also, Razorfish has lost plenty of technical talent, most of which came from its acquisition of i-Cube two years ago.

But an integration executive who requested anonymity says dropping coding services could set up a Web design firm to merge with an application development house. The Razorfish spokeswoman says the company has no plans at present to merge.

But the company has been through changes of late. Razorfishs founders, Jeffrey Dachis and Craig Kanarick, stepped down this month. Maheu was promoted to CEO from COO.

The company reported a first-quarter pro forma net loss of $6.6 million, but company executives say Razorfish could reach the break-even point, on a pro forma basis, in Q2.

Razorfish and MarchFirst may be scaling back, but "people are still out there pursuing the dream of end-to-end," says David Boede, a former MarchFirst manager. Boede and other MarchFirst colleagues in April bought out the Salt Lake City office, which has been renamed Boede & Partners.

The company is focused on its core marketing skills and not trying to be all things to customers. "In tough economic times, people hunker down and focus on the basics," Boede says.