IBM has launched a comprehensive ASP-readiness program designed to "aggressively" speed independent software vendors (ISVs) and internet service providers to market as application service providers.
The Service Provider Ready Program is a multi-platform, five-step initiative.
Companies must pass five assessment phases before qualifying as IBM-accredited ASPs. The criteria comprises online education by IBM, business assessment, technical enablement, software hosting, and launch to market.
Applications developed under the program are Windows NT and Unix-compatible, according to Stephanie Carullo, IBM Australia's director of commercial business.
Two Australian ISVs are trialling the program in IBM's Sydney lab. Cincom, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) and accounting software company, and applicationstation.com.au, an application hosting and IT services startup, have been tagged as launch partners for the program.
Under the program, Cincom is developing a suite of customer relationship management (CRM) applications with Encompass, initially for New Zealand's small-to-medium business market. Its ASP offerings will hit the local market in December this year, according to Paul Hargreaves, Cincom Australia's managing director of ANZ operations.
He anticipates that IBM's program will foster a "double-digit" return on investment for Cincom, though he refused to provide a figure.
IBM's startup partner, applicationstation.com.au, is creating a range of niche applications such as GST compliance and "debtor's function" applications with IBM.
Applicationstation.com.au's CEO, Craig Hawkins, predicted the SME adoption of the program would be "significant". He claimed businesses now see applications as a "service", not merely an "IT solution".
Hawkins hinted that the Australian Customs Service was keen to become an IBM ASP customer through applicationstation.com.au.
Carullo insisted the market was "poised" to take on an assault from accredited ASPs. The SME market was "where all of the synergy is", she said.
IBM's program would enable startups in particular to focus on core business competencies like sales and marketing "rather than IT or networking", Carullo explained. "(These businesses) do not have the time for bricks-and-mortar functions," she said.
She added that the beauty of the ASP market was its non-discriminatory nature. "No one can dominate it."
"As many entrepreneurial dot-coms as you could imagine" were signing up to IBM's program daily, Carullo said.
All three companies in the ASP triangle would not discuss the value of their partnerships.