Complexity breeds content

Internet service providers are no longer being asked just to help organisations establish a Web presence. Instead, they are expected to help clients transform part of their business to compete in an Internet economy and integrate their e-commerce sites with back-end systems. The increased complexity of projects is contributing to torrid growth of Internet services spending, according to forecasts by IDC The research group expects the worldwide market for Internet services to increase from $US16.2 billion in 1999 to $US99.1 billion in 2004. For service providers to capitalise on this expanding opportunity, they will have to adapt to the changing scope of Internet projects. As projects continue to increase in complexity and size, clients will want to work only with service providers that can maintain a long-term relationship by offering a suite of ongoing consulting, implementation and maintenance services.

Internet services firms will also have to be able to expand the range of services they provide to meet the growing needs of clients. These services include incubator, e-marketplace and even wireless services.

Governments go online

Customer service is now top priority in the public sector as senior state government managers from around the world prepare for a massive increase in online demand from IT-savvy communities, according to a study published by Deloitte Consulting. The study reveals that by 2002, Australian government entities expect 34 per cent of citizens to use the Internet as their primary means of accessing government services -- a 199 per cent increase from the current level of approximately 11 per cent.

The study provides a top management perspective from more than 250 government agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. It benchmarks governments and their agencies and measures how they are positioned to enter the e-government era.

Traditionally, legislation has been the catalyst for change in the public sector but this has been turned on its head with the community demanding a much higher level of customer service across multiple channels. The challenge for government entities is to ensure they optimise service levels for customers -- this will incorporate an intricate knowledge of what the customer wants as well as the ongoing management of the multi-channel approach.

Deloitte's global study revealed that customer-centric government agencies achieve nearly 50 per cent more success in providing easier customer access, increasing service volume, getting better information on operations, reducing employee complaints, reducing employee time spent on non-customer activities and improving their own imageRust-e-ResearchDemand for high-speed broadband access connections outpaced supply of enabling devices during the first quarter of 2000, as worldwide shipments of broadband cable modems exceeded 1.47 million units, according to Dataquest. The company's analysts said the first quarter of 2000 registered extraordinarily strong shipments of cable modems, as the worldwide market for demand for broadband access continued unabated in the new year. Cable customer-premise equipment (CPE) based on the DOCSIS standard accounted for 61 per cent of worldwide cable modem shipments in the quarter. Forty per cent of shipments were proprietary, while Digital Video Broadcasting/Digital Audio-Visual Council (DVB/DAVIC) cable modems, continued to remain mostly in the trial stage and represented just 0.2 per cent of all shipments. The first quarter was especially strong for cable modem vendors supplying units into North America and Asia. While demand is strong, cable modem vendors have been hit by component shortages, particularly for radio frequency (RF) tuner subcomponents, which could take as much as 60 days to be sorted out.

Companies in the 21st century not only have to deal with a momentous lack of skilled IT workers, they also have to learn how to manage a significantly changing workforce. According to IDC, the way work will be accomplished this millennium will be very different than in the past because of a very different workforce. Generation Xers don't seem willing to make the traditional commitment to a business enterprise and work as the highest priority in life, and baby-boomers are leaving the corporate life at an increasing rate. Their relationship with a company is based more on an individual than a group agreement. As the century progresses, only firms that understand and meet the expectations and needs of workers at the individual level will continue as long-term business entities. Individual interests have replaced trust and loyalty as the primary reasons for employees' associations with companies. According to IDC, downsizing, resizing, rightsizing and re-engineering employee jobs for the sake of improving the bottom line contributed to eroding employee trust and loyalty. The available workers in the 21st century will expect and demand individual accommodation with regard to their needs for security, predictability and dignity. The balance of power will shift entirely from the employer to the employee and that shift will intensify the already-fierce competition for skilled IT workers so that companies will have to work even harder to attract and retain IT professionals.

Enterprise applications -- software typically used by big businesses -- will itself remain big business for years, according to a study released by AMR Research Inc. The enterprise applications market will grow from $US27 billion in 1999 to $US78 billion in 2004, a compound annual growth rate of 24 per cent, according to the study. This growth will be fuelled by enterprise applications for supply chain management (SCM), e-business relationship management (ERM) and e-commerce, AMR's study predicts. Enterprise resource planning (ER) applications made up 64 per cent of the enterprise applications market in 1999 but will fall to less than a third of the market in 2004. The research firm predicts that the ERP market growth will slow to five per cent a year, increasing from $US16.9 billion in 1999 to $US21.4 billion in 2004. The top five ERP vendors -- SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and GEAC SmartEnterprise Solutions -- are in flux and being challenged by new market dynamics, allowing new players to gain ground. These five market leaders account for 62 per cent of the total market revenue, and will find new opportunities in ERM, SCM and e-commerce markets.

Nielsen//NetRatings recently reported its first international Internet audience information and usage survey for five countries: Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Global Internet domains figure prominently in international surfing activity, as indicated by MSN's selection as the top web site by domain in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, and as second only to Yahoo! in Singapore and Ireland. In the first look at non-US usage of the Internet amongst the five countries reported, Australia and New Zealand lead in Internet usage with nearly eight hours of monthly usage in March, although the US still maintains its top spot in monthly usage with more than nine hours in March. Both MSN and Yahoo! have risen to the top in the markets of the UK, Ireland, Singapore and Australia by carefully developing relationships and partnerships with local content providers and then adding their value-added applications, such as free e-mail, online communities and searching capabilities to provide a well-rounded local package.

New information technologies are reshaping the US workforce and are now widely used in the home, but the adoption of IT varies greatly by industry, individual income level, ethnicity and geographic location, according to the US National Science Board (NSB). The board's report on the status of science and engineering in the US states that the growth of IT has been likened to the Industrial Revolution in terms of its potential scope and impact on society. But the growth comes with many questions about the distribution of knowledge, wealth and power among groups, and questions about impacts on IT-rich versus IT-poor groups in achieving wealth and getting access to quality education. The report indicates that there is greatly increased computerisation and productivity in the workplace, but this has coincided with growing income disparities. From 1973 to 1995, wages increased in the top 40 per cent of occupational income and decreased in the bottom 70 per cent. Wages of low-skill workers may decline when IT-abled, high skill workers absorb their tasks. But low-skill employees are also recognising the need to broaden their knowledge and make their way into more technical positions.

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