Web integrators not making the grade: Report says

Web integrators not making the grade: Report says

A report titled eCommerce Integrators Exposed, conducted in the US by Forrester Research, has outlined the shortcomings of Web developers and systems integrators in providing quality service to clients.

The report assessed the top 40 US integrators and graded their capabilities, best work and internal processes.

Forrester analyst Christine Overby believes integrators are failing to deliver consistently across the breadth of services they offer. "The much-touted end-to-end model of most integrators has as its cornerstone the blend of strategy, creative and technical services," Overby said.

Asked by ARN how integrators could "lift their game", Overby suggested building strengths in one or two service areas. "[Integrators] can beef up partnership capabilities with other focussed providers to deliver the necessary skills."Overby said the best of the integrators were making "rifle-shot" acquisitions to shore up their weaknesses in particular areas, such as wireless.

"Integrators are working in such a demand-saturated market that they don't need to focus on delivering consistency and quality to get the work," she said.

"Most integrators should take a quick look at their clients' sites to see where their services fall down. What they'll find are sites with spotty reliability, tortured navigation structures, and generic user experiences."ARN contacted some local channel companies to gauge their opinions.

Tony Henshaw, EDS' president of Asia-Pacific edot solutions, says there are two primary factors for successful e-commerce solutions. "The client has to have a very clear veiw of what they want in relation to their markets and customers and developers have to have the credentials to make these a reality."Henshaw says that the report seems to specify "symptoms of clients who don't know what they want".

"Companies shouldn't think of e-commerce solutions as regular development projects left to run their own course," says Henshaw. He feels that companies should approach e-commerce as a product and service research and development project. Companies should set date specific checkpoints to make sure they are meeting their goals. "If these goals aren't met, they must be prepared to abandon the project."Clare Burden, Sydney-based branch manager of integration maintenance outsourcing and sales company Aarque Anitech, said there is a lot of interest at the moment in Web based e-commerce solutions. Burden said there were still clients around who intend to implement e-commerce style solutions, but have put things off due to issues like Y2K and the GST.

"Often clients don't get the response they expect because they don't understand the complexities of the technology," she said. "The user interface is designed to look simple; what is underneath is very complex, and when things go wrong, end users tend to panic."Evan Parthenis, production director Sydney-based Web integrator Zivo, believes "sales pitch" overstating happens in every industry. "e-commerce integration is particularly prone to it at the moment because it's a boom industry. There are a lot of [Web developer] companies getting involved that lack the maturity to know what they are and aren't capable of."Parthenis uses the example of mining companies that are redesigning to become dot-coms. "A lot of [companies] are attracted by the cash but don't realise what is involved, and do a disservice to their clients as a result," he said.

"Much of the industry has grown out of the advertising business, which means the focus is skewed away from the technical side of things and toward decorative features. Some companies promise the world and fail to deliver. You have to realise that what you are doing is developing mission critical software - not just an electronic billboard."

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