Magazine Article | February 1, 2003

The Well-Placed Buy

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Your budget looks identical to last year's, and you're supposed to accomplish even more in 2003. It's a big challenge, but some critical technology buys may save your sanity - and your job.

Integrated Solutions, February 2003

What happened to the days when I would check my inbox and find news releases touting multimillion-dollar software deals? These weren't even successful implementations. Simply put, they were cries for attention from the end user community. "Look at us. We just one-upped our competition by writing a huge check to Vendor X."

But, why pine for the good old days? They aren't coming back - ever. Today's companies are breaking deals into smaller parts and implementing pieces of technology. A small department here or a distribution center there - eventually, this may add up to a "real" enterprise implementation ... but not right away. The term "big bang" has once again been handed back to astronomers for their sole usage.

For vendors - and editors - clinging to the hopes that inboxes will once again be filled with announcements of huge deals, it's time to let go. Technology purchases are not handled in that manner any more, concurred Bengt Nilsson, president and CEO of IFS, at his company's most recent user conference in Orlando, FL. "It's a step-by-step buying process. And, that's called being intelligent," added Nilsson. "The hype surrounding IT is gone. Now, it's all about cutting costs. And, that's normal and good."

Big Improvements On A Small Budget
With the days of flashy technology buys behind us and the Yankee Group reporting that 87% of end user IT budgets either were slashed or remained status quo for 2003, you must be ready to break out the Ouija board as you make technology decisions in 2003. Short of contacting the spirit world, there are some principles that should help guide your decision-making processes. First, heed Nilsson's observation and focus on cutting costs with new technologies. Second, because you likely have less manpower, use technology to automate routine IT management tasks. Third, remember there is no prize for completing the biggest deal - small projects grow to influence the entire enterprise. With these three factors in mind, several technologies should be on your short list of products for 2003:

Speech Recognition. Your CRM (customer relationship management) strategy has to include speech-enabled IVR (interactive voice response) within your contact center. This allows customers to speak short commands and resolve inquiries without using the frustrating Touch-Tone system. A call handled by an agent is sure to cost at least $2. Speech-enabled IVR can trim that number by 90%.

Analytics Reporting. ERP (enterprise resource planning) and stand-alone supply chain vendors are both pushing analytical software that can give you a deeper understanding of your enterprise. And, IT isn't burdened with developing customized reporting packages. Creating extensive data warehouses is no longer on your plate. You might actually have time to sit down.

RFID (radio frequency identification). If you don't know much about these tiny read/write tags, then you'd better brush up quickly. Fear not; RFID will not replace bar codes. But this technology will complement bar codes and find its way into retail, security, and supply chain applications where bar codes have certain limitations.

Storage. Storage management tools will help you better utilize your most expensive storage by automatically migrating seldom accessed and less critical data to cheaper nearline storage. This frees up expensive hardware to handle your company's most critical data. You may need to keep adding storage, but you'll be adding less of it.

So, keep your eyes on the prize in 2003 - cutting costs. If that's your focus, then you have to give the aforementioned technologies more than a glancing look.