IBM will launch a $23 million e-business innovation centre in Sydney this year to deliver e-business solutions to vertical industries.
IBM's cash investment will establish the technology and communication infrastructure of the facility, which IBM believes will provide an "e-business hub" for the Asia-Pacific.
Pyrmont is tipped as the centre's location due to its growing identity as an e-business hot-spot, according to Paul Kenny, director of innovation centres for IBM Global Services Asia Pacific.
IBM will provide e-business consulting services to local customers and partners, helping them battle the "day-to-day" pressures experienced by the virtual business, Kenny said.
Specifically, IBM will design procurement, customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence strategies for the enterprise.
The centre would create a relaxed environment for customers and IT pros, Kenny said, displaying "free-form" technology bringing together desk structures, wireless telephone and local area networks (LANs). It will have 150 staff capacity initially, and is expected to expand to 340 in two years.
Business customers of the facility include companies from the transport, government and financial services sectors.
IBM Australia's current commercial e-business projects include internet banking solutions, wireless application protocol (WAP) services for telecommunications carriers, supply chain management solutions, and business-to-consumer (B2C) portal upgrades for the likes of Amway and Lend Lease's personal investment site, http://www.yourprosperity.com.au.
The Federal and NSW governments have a small hand in the centre's development. They will target tertiary institutions with training and development initiatives to boost Australia's IT skills set, according to IBM.
"Graduates are the lifeblood of the internet set, not just IT," said Kenny. "We need their graphic design and true marketing skills for online marketing, for instance, in addition to IT skills."
The centre will create 490 jobs over the next five years, 150 of which have been allocated to IBM Global Services e-business specialists.
High-demand areas at the centre include creative services, interactive marketing, motion graphics, project management, IT and business consulting and programming.
IBM will not only engage in campus hiring, but scout for IT and business ex-pats, according to Kenny. "The (IBM) brand has afforded us the privilege of these people," he said. However, he added: "We try not to scavenge everyone's resources."
Singapore was also a strong contender to host the centre. While the country was an "attractive" option, Kenny felt it lacked the stable workforce, economy and diverse skills set of Sydney.
The centre is due to open at the end of the year, despite expected embargoes on building material transportation across Sydney during the Olympics, according to Kenny.
IBM has plans to build 20 e-business centres worldwide, using the Sydney facility as the Asia-Pacific's "spokesmodel".
IBM recorded $US3 billion in global e-business services revenue in 1999, a 60 per cent increase from 1998. Global e-business earnings grew by 70 per cent in the second quarter of 2000, according to IBM.