Customer relationship management, service oriented architecture and virtualisation were among the priorities for the IT professionals visiting CeBIT 2007, which began in Hannover last week.
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The IT industry's largest annual exhibition and conference reflected CRM's growing importance by dedicating an area solely to the subject for the first time.
The concept of self-service systems was tipped as one solution to the current problem of aligning IT functions with business processes. Used in various applications, including booking flights and paying bills online, the idea will increasingly find its way into next-generation CRM platforms, said suppliers exhibiting at the show.
"Combining a growing self-service movement with enterprise intelligence to enhance the customer's experience could increase productivity," said Bill Nuti, chief executive at NCR Corporation.
Underpinning this is the movement towards SOAs, and visitors were able to see the latest ways to integrate existing IT systems within an SOA infrastructure at CeBIT.
"SOA represents the end of IT silos and standardised mass production. It signifies the beginning of IT that is orientated to the customer's business strategy," said Karl-Heinz Streibich, chief executive at Software AG.
Meanwhile, Joseph Reger, chief technical officer at Fujitsu Siemens discussed the reality of virtualisation. Although increasing server utilisation and storage capacity through virtualisation software is seen as a quick fix for addressing intensive processing needs, Reger warned that throwing more IT at problem may only increase complexity and create a "virtual sprawl".
He advised companies to think about building more efficient systems architectures, which could decrease the resource requirement.
Daryl Plummer, principal analyst at Gartner, said, "The movement towards process improvement is a key motivator for corporations seeking to generate value." He predicted a growing focus on increased discipline as the way to reduce cost and control complexity, especially in the communications field.
Marcus Birkl, vice-president at Siemens Enterprise Communications, also highlighted the need for processes to realise productivity gains from communications technology. "A key challenge for IT users in 2007 is to handle all the different communication channels - e-mail, mobile voice, fixed voice, instant messaging," he said.
This is a challenge for businesses of all sizes, according to mobile supplier Ericsson. "In SMEs, the trend is mobilising the workforce to take full advantage of IP and mobility to improve availability and collaboration," said a spokesman.
However, some thought that the key technology challenge for IT users in 2007 was basically the same as in previous years.
"Making data available while effectively protecting it remains the top priority," said Tony Cotterill, chief executive at BridgeHead Software.
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