If your business made it out of last year alive, and if weve learned anything during the last official days of the 20th century, that lesson may be that the Internet cant solve all of our problems, that not all businesses can run on it, that it isnt the best communications medium and that it wont change everything. It has already changed much and will change a lot more, but some things dont change—like having a sound business plan.
Another thing weve learned is that the outsourcing business still has a long way to go before it becomes mature, reliable and predictable. As weve discussed here before, many small "boutique" service providers dont have the leadership, expertise or infrastructure to contribute long-term value to most customer relationships. Yet many other customers are not comfortable signing on with the largest systems integrators out there, like IBM and EDS.
What is going to be most important over the coming weeks, months and years is the ability for service providers to be flexible—flexible for their customers as well as flexible in their own business plans and focus. For instance, one service provider that is adjusting on the fly to the dot-com shakeout is Loudcloud, the brainchild of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, which provides e-business software infrastructure as a service. But Andreessens company, which early in 2000 hyped its customers as fast-track dot-coms, has restructured that plan to focus on large, established companies that need to build out an e-business system but dont have the time or expertise to do it.
"We are optimistic that there are continued opportunities for companies who are serious about what they are doing," Andreessen said in an interview with eWeek. "You cant be optimistic about companies that are still running the way they were a year ago. This is a time of great seriousness. Its no longer about eyeballs and stickiness and trying to make everyone rich."