IBM chairman shares vision for e-business

Under the banner “new skills, new markets, new business”, Lou Gerstner pronounced the first wave of e-business...

Under the banner “new skills, new markets, new business”, Lou Gerstner pronounced the first wave of e-business officially dead last week, raising the banner for the next, real business phase.

“People have finally come to understand what we’ve been talking about for five years: that e-business isn’t about content, or dot coms, or any of a thousand get-rich-quick schemes,” Gerstner insisted.

“There’s a new-found appreciation that e-business is just business. Real business. Serious work.”

In a stark contrast to the pizzazz of flashing disco lights and pulsating dance music which had greeted the 4,000 attendees to the keynote session, the chairman’s vision for e-business was unashamedly old-fashioned.

The next phase of e-business would be “more pragmatic”, according to Gerstner, who said it would be about two things: integration and infrastructure.

IBM and its partners needed to be poised to facilitate the explosion of transactions brought about by the move to unify core business processes via e-business, he argued.

The server business was a key plank in IBM’s plan for 2001, as servers would underpin e-business, Gerstner insisted. He also reaffirmed IBM’s commitment to Linux, describing the move to open source as “a battle all of us have to fight and win”.

Gerstner acknowledged several ways in which the channel was changing, pointing to ways in which it could embrace the changes to create business.

Highlighting the rise of new partners such as ISVs, service providers, Web integrators and system integrators, Gerstner proposed a greater emphasis on partner-to-partner relationships offering more complex services.

“Let’s not exit another year bemoaning that we left too much services business on the table.” Gerstner was at pains to emphasise the growing importance of IBM’s partners — at one point calling on his colleagues to give a round of applause to partners for their efforts last year — particularly for over-achieving fourth quarter targets.

He pointed out that partners had accounted for a third of the company’s revenue in 2000, up from less than ten per cent just four years ago.

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