Electronic Data Systems (EDS) remains one of the largest system integrators on the corporate IT landscape.
Barry Sullivan, vice president of the Internet and Electronic Markets Group at EDS, talked to IDG's Michael Vizard about some of the major trends driving IT in 1998Vizard: What's the biggest issue facing customers deploying new projects in 1998?
Sullivan: Almost all technology now is contending with year 2000 dollars and with the European Monetary Union conversion process as well.
People are starting to make the infrastructure changes to support an environment that may be a couple of years off. People are getting off SNA [Systems Network Architecture] and/or a mixed environment, and getting to a TCP/IP environment. That strikes me as something they are doing to get ready for the future when all applications are Internet applications.
So most people are still dealing with the basics of IP?
Yes; and IP appears to be a rudimentary infrastructure play. We see this in two ways. One is that people appear to be willing to spend money to get connected with customers. The expression I've been using for it is an inverted customer service model.
Federal Express does customer service differently -- instead of calling and talking to a Fed Ex person, you interface with the technology.
How will this affect the sales process?
It's taken an interesting turn. What people are doing with the Internet is approaching companies to connect not just their salespeople to their sales system, but their entire distribution channel so they have knowledge of all their sales channels.
A lot of the cost that's been taken out of business over the last 15 years has come out of the supply chain. They've shortened distribution channels; they've put requirements on manufacturers.
But we see people now as saying: "let's look outbound at customers: how much inventory do I have in the channel? How much demand do I have in the channels that people are starting to use?" And the Internet makes it possible. You don't have to worry about arming everybody with the same technology.
Internet commerce is taking off in business-to-business, but business-to-consumer seems trickier.
You can do it if you're in the right niche that caters to people 30 and under, or to those who have a high income.
In terms of platforms, do you see any interest in Windows 98?
I think everybody's going to wrestle with how to get to a lower administrative position on the desktop. And if they judge that the next version of Windows is significantly easier to use, then I see the movement.
I can't see it moving on feature functionality. If you look at what's happened around desktops, people are trying to get to a lower total cost of ownership model. Ease of use is important. If Microsoft intends to sell Windows 98 on the basis of feature function, I think it's going to get pushed back.
So what's keeping you up at night?
More bandwidth. Everybody's counting on it. There are two things that are going to keep us from getting to a wired economy.
One is bandwidth and the other is a behavioural issue. At a certain age the wired economy requires a behaviour change. In the year 2000 there will be 80 million Americans under the age of 20, and if you look at most people today, they live the way their parents did.
There's a good chance this next generation will live differently.
Generational shift is going to bring about the wired economy, because it is unlikely that 50 year olds are going to change their behaviour.