One of the biggest areas of disconnection between suppliers and corporate IT users relates to application service providers (ASPs). The supply industry seems to know what the term means, but users don't.
So far, the ASP movement has made little practical impact on users. And at the recent Richmond Events' IT Directors' Forum a strong dose of cynicism permeated several think-tanks on ASPs. For a start, no-one could agree what they are. Are they a return to the bad old days of bureau services? Do ASPs just provide state-of-the-art timesharing? Or a cost-effective way of buying and distributing software applications, usually, but not necessarily, involving delivery over the Internet?
There was real concern about the lack of clear messages from suppliers about what the ASP model is and what its real benefits are to the user.
These highly experienced IT directors, each with eight- or nine-figure annual IT budgets, wanted assurances about getting the most appropriate solution mix, reliable service quality, and flexible contracts without disputes about liabilities or ownership. They need clear figures for the cost of change, lock-in costs, lifecycle costs and hidden costs.
So far, ASPs have not done nearly enough to convince such users that they understand their needs and can deliver real business benefits.