Creating One-Stop Shops for E-Commerce

HP, Enfrastructure, IBM and EDS facilities aim to speed e-biz initiatives

Theres nothing like getting out of the office to really get something accomplished. That premise is leading professional services operations such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Enfrastructure Inc., IBM Global Services and Electronic Data Systems Corp. to develop worldwide facilities designed to speed the development of clients e-business initiatives.

The goal is to gather appropriate technologists and decision makers in one place, where they can design and execute new e-business plans.

HPs professional services organization last month opened the latest such facility in San Jose, Calif. The newest HP E-Services Institute joins similar facilities that the Palo Alto, Calif., company has created to address client business problems.

"The other guys focus on individual areas in the value chain, such as application implementation, hardware infrastructure implementation or analysis to determine the customers need," said Wil Snyder, manager of HP E-Services Institutes in San Jose and Ontario, Calif. "Weve tried to look at it along the whole continuum—from the time a customer comes to us with a business problem until [the solution is] running."

HP has emphasized flexibility in designing its E-Services Institutes. "We have hard-wired every connection back to a secure communication center, so we can switch any network to any location any time within the building," Snyder said.

Conference and work space can also be easily reconfigured to accommodate different-size groups performing different functions. "Projects have an elasticity that they didnt use to have," Snyder said.

The soup-to-nuts approach is also behind Enfrastructure, a joint venture created last fall by Microsoft Corp., IBM, Avaya Inc. (formerly the Enterprise Network Group of Lucent Technologies Inc.) and Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting). That venture is in the process of planning and building facilities in 16 locations globally. Sites planned for this quarter include the San Francisco Bay area, Denver and New York.

Enfrastructure is taking flexibility to a new level and a slightly different audience. Its facilities are designed to give startup companies a leg up in providing flexible space, a computing infrastructure and even perks like health clubs. The facilities are designed to allow the startups, such as the Corporation for Standards & Outcomes, to scale quickly.

"Were just getting ready to sign a new contract that will double our size. Well leave on a Friday, come back on a Monday, and we wont miss a beat," said Jonathan Ross, chief operating officer at the Corporation for Standards & Outcomes, in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

Separately, IBM Global Services is building its own facilities. IBM has already opened 15 e-business centers, with 10 more planned.

IBM brings clients into its innovation centers for brainstorming sessions where several technologies are used to facilitate discussions locally and between the centers and participants in other locations.

EDS is taking a more cautious approach. The professional services company last week held a grand opening for an eSpace facility in Detroit, which joined an existing eSpace site in EDS Plano, Texas, headquarters; a smaller facility in its A.T. Kearney Inc. site in Chicago; and a sister site in Frankfurt, Germany. eSpace Director Blair Spring said he hopes to open a facility in the Bay area in the fourth quarter.

Big Five consulting companies have been using similar facilities for years in developing business applications for clients. But the need for speed in e-business initiatives is fueling the latest wave of development.

"We had a fairly stringent time requirement to get the e-store up and running. HP came in with a proposal using the [E-Services] Institute as a rapid application development approach," said Dave Fastenow, director of lean electronics and e-business at Collins Aviation Services, a business unit of Rockwell Collins Inc., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "HP was the only one that said they would turn it around in 90 days."

But speed isnt the only concern. For customers trying to transform their businesses, the need for speed takes a back seat to getting a major project done right the first time.

"Speed isnt our measuring stick," said Ramil Yaldaei, vice president of integrated products operation for Therma-Wave Inc., in Fremont, Calif. "It is important, but how well everyone comes together—the knowledge transfer—has to be there."

Therma-Wave is the first customer to use HPs new San Jose facility.

Even in the development phase of a given project, which often involves more individual tasks and more "doing than thinking, I had developers working in a bullpen who swear they got it done two weeks earlier than they would have otherwise," EDS Spring said.