Partnering for a New Generation of Enterprise Software in the Mid-Market

Dennis Byron

If your company or organization employs between 100 and 1,000 employees, depending on industry, you are the most popular IT staffer or manager in the IT market. Of course, if your enterprise is on the lower end of that scale, you might also be the telecom person and the plant manager.


But, whatever, in IT you are the mid-part of the mid-market and every vendor in the industry wants to help move your compute infrastructure into the 21st century. Some IBM announcements around what it calls the Blue Business Platform during the week of April 28 illustrate the point. And Infor, Intuit, Lawson, Microsoft, Oracle, Sage and SAP are all over you as well -- many working in tandem.


Actually, what they want to do is provide you many of the IT features your fathers had in the 1980s or your grandfathers had in the 1960s. And that's not all bad. Back in the day, when only about 5 percent of the employees in an organization used compute power, products like the AS/400 ran lights out, came out of the box aligned with key business processes, and were heavily partner based. Examples included the J.D. Edwards World software, products from other software suppliers that ran on Wang or Digital Equipment minicomputers, and even more software choices such as the Great Plains accounting software that ran on Netware and DOS. Before that, hospitals had information systems that ran back in Shared Medical Services' Malvern, PA, data center, and most community banks used a service bureau that is now part of FiServ.


Now the same simplicity is available even as up to 100 percent of the employees need some kind of compute support. It's often called an appliance, software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud computing.


But it has all the advantages of being behind the glass wall in the room with the raised floor.


The largest advantage is getting your employees all singing out of the same song book when it comes to IT. The PC era brought an incredible amount of unsupported and unsupportable software into your organization. If you are also both the telecom manager and the plant manager, you know you would never accept this in your "phone" system or your production assets.


The second leading advantage is dealing with a local partner who knows both you and your business needs as well as the technology. (With SaaS and cloud computing, there will be a push to move this relationship online, but that's OK as long as you know who is ultimately at the other end of the line.) The key is leaving it to the partner to make sure you are integrated and interoperable. Do you need to convince Verizon to make sure you can reach people in AT&T's or BT's region?


Hearing a lot about service-oriented architecture, open source software, Web 2.0, and other buzzwords du jour? Let the partner worry about them.


(By the way, if you are one of the IT fathers or grandfathers -- or mothers or grandmothers -- I mentioned above, drop me an e-mail as to how you see the transition going. Is it different working with the service bureaus and VARs of yesteryear compared to the SaaS suppliers and ISVs of today? Or, does what goes around come around?)

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