Networking: Ready for Lift-Off | Article

Outsourcing NetworksThe Internet is booming. Customers are beginning to set their own rules for when and how they will do business. Companies are realizing the benefits of improved connectivity with suppliers and across business units. This burgeoning demand for increased flexibility and information exchange is driving a marketplace move to networking, according to Rick Roscitt, president and CEO of AT&T Solutions.

“At AT&T Solutions, we’ve been talking about networking for four years,” said Roscitt. “I used to make networking speeches; 10 percent of the audience would be paying attention, and the rest would be saying, ‘who cares.’ Suddenly I see an enormous shift. The whole networking phenomenon is poised to take off like a rocketship.”

He said banks are leading the way.

“The top executives get it,” he said. “If you want to do home banking or virtual banking, you really have to think about connecting lots of your customers to the bank’s network. They call it home banking, but the truth is that I do most of it when I wake up in a hotel room at three in the morning and can’t sleep. So it’s really anytime, anywhere banking on a mobile basis.”† Customers want more than connectivity, they want to do transactions. That means they must be able to cut across the organizational structures of the bank to handle their checking accounts, mortgage loans, credit cards and other products and services.

“Now you have this massive connectivity problem,” said Roscitt. “How do I connect my top customers to the bank 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a networking, hassle-free experience? How do I let all of the bank units cross communicate to make it look like a seamless offer to the client?”Some Bumps in the Road

As companies move toward networking, the resulting challenges frequently highlight two clear areas of need, according to Roscitt. The existing network platforms need significant upgrades to accommodate this new approach to the market, and the company does not have enough skills internally to run the legacy platform and, at the same time, create new networking centric platforms.

“That’s what makes outsourcing networks and networking management so red hot right now,” he said. “It isn’t the trend that fueled the data processing deals 10 years ago when companies were in trouble and needed to reduce their budgets– this time it is top-line revenue driven” and an advanced networking platform “investment” is the answer.

While Roscitt called the financial services industry — banking, brokerage and insurance — “red hot,” he said networking also is increasing in both the health care and energy industries. The emphasis is on changing business models to position connectivity as a fundamental element.

AT&T Solutions is repositioning itself for the trend toward networking. “We’re making a big bet that this is exactly where the market is,” said Roscitt. “We’re retooling our consulting practice to being really focused on electronic marketplace phenomenon, electronic channels, and trying to help firms understand how to use this new networking centric world to their business advantage. That’s more narrowly focused than we’ve been historically, but it’s done with strategic intent. We think networking is going to be much more in demand in the marketplace, and we want to specialize in it.”A Question of People

One of the critical issues facing networking is the lack of skilled people, according to Roscitt.

“We’re on the precipice of a major set of breakthroughs by moving to a networking centric business model that increases productivity and serves customers in a much more elegant way and therefore should make firms’ sales volumes go through the roof, “he said. “If I wake up at night worrying about something, it’s that they’re all going to get it at once — and there aren’t enough skilled people to do it all at once.”

Roscitt said this move toward networking is driven by what he calls the ‘social fabric.’ “Everyone is somewhat computer literate,” he said. “The rate of people on the ‘net has accelerated faster than any other technology introducedever!. Firms react by saying you can deal with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now we expect everything to be real time, instantaneous.”Consumers Taking Control

Roscitt said those expectations have caused the balance of power to shift toward the consumer “in an intriguing way,” with the customer having more choice about where and when to do business.

“Companies can no longer dictate the customer’s world,” he said. “To respond, you have to change your business model and increasingly your technology platform in this networking centric world. You have to have a two-way listening post. The beauty of a networking platform is that the connectivity isn’t just about broadcast, it’s also about receiving input from your customers.”

That two-way communication is at the core of what Roscitt sees as a very promising future.

“I have great hopes for this whole networking industry that we’re in, because I think it is an enormous uplift for the productivity and profitability for the major corporations around the world,” he said. “The technological payoff of moving to a networking centric model is just around the corner. I find that really exciting.”

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