COMDEX : EDS integrates site design, IT support

At Comdex 2000 earlier this week, consulting giant Electronic Data Systems announced the formation of a subsidiary that combines its teams of Web site designers with a staff of technical consultants responsible for working with users on back-end IT support issues.

The new unit was unveiled as part of a series of announcements by EDS, including several management changes affecting senior executives at the US-based company. Called Bluesphere, the subsidiary has more than 2500 employees and is taking over responsibility for the 750 customers that have had their Web sites designed by EDS.

Brad Rucker, who was named to be Bluesphere's president, said the subsidiary will try to sell users on its ability to make sure their Web pages can do real-time data exchanges with the back-office systems running their corporate applications. That could prevent companies that are looking to do business via the Web from having to bring in multiple vendors and systems integrators to work on projects, he added.

But Rucker said he doesn't expect to be without competition. Because users typically need to link their Web sites to multiple servers running a variety of operating systems and applications, Rucker predicted that other consulting firms, integrators and application development firms "will be blowing into this market" as well.

The formation of Bluesphere "is not anything revolutionary," said Christine Overby, an analyst at US-based Forrester Research. But it does give EDS a running headstart over rivals such as Andersen Consulting and IBM Global Services that are expected to move in the same direction, she added.

Many "small fish" consulting firms are also offering similar services, Overby said. However, the market for delivering the kinds of Web-based capabilities promised by EDS "is so immature [that] we don't know which models will be successful," she said.

The major questions for Bluesphere, according to Overby, will be how much autonomy it has within the EDS corporate walls and how well the new unit can sell large users on such sweeping projects.

Bluesphere plans to operate as an outsourcer, offering temporary staffing and project management services as part of its Web design and IT support mix. In addition to targeting corporate users, the EDS subsidiary said it plans to seek business from Government agencies looking to do online processing of things such as driver's licence renewals and tax payments.

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