IBM Partners Remain Edgy

By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2002-09-16 Print this article Print

PricewaterhouseCoopers used to give unfettered advice on which hardware and software to install. Now, it's being absorbed by IBM. That doesn't make customers happy.

IBM Partners Remain Edgy

IBM's current partners are wary as well, concerned about how IBM's acquisition of PwC will create conflicts. PwC is currently a partner in Sun's iForce system integrator program, and while Sun doesn't report how much revenue it generates through individual partners, system integrators form a major channel for Sun's sales.

PwC is also a Hewlett-Packard partner and HP is a PwC customer. PwC even has listed HP's e-services portal as one of its "success stories."

"I just don't think those partnerships can be sustained," says Stiffler. And there are questions about how other outside relationships will be handled, she adds. "PwC's Oracle practice is very well regarded, very competitive, and top among the global firms," says Stiffler. "I think we'll hear some lip service about keeping the Oracle practice and some of the other practices you'd think would never gel with IBM, or about allowing them to keep certain partnerships."

In the meantime, Sun and other current PwC Consulting partners are watching the move carefully. "In the short term, we're not going to be changing anything," says Sun's Yaplee. "After the deal goes through, we'll be monitoring the relationship closely."

Corporate customers are doing much the same. To protect themselves from consultant bias, companies may want to spread their relationships out across multiple firms, and play all sides against the middle to make sure they're getting an undistorted message—something that some large companies already do, says Stiffler. But she doesn't necessarily recommend that as a course of action; it can get expensive. The cost of an enterprise software consultant is roughly between $1,300 and $1,800 a day. And in some areas of expertise, it may also be difficult—some system integrators have "islands of expertise" not matched in other practices.

Another approach is to find another independent source of information to balance against the advice of services firms, either by maintaining an internal technology assessment capability or by turning to outside analyst firms.

"It's a great idea to maintain an internal competency," says Stiffler. "If you have the resources, and the luxury of assigning staff, that's great. But I don't know if that really works for everybody. You might just become a big sales target."

Sean Gallagher is editor of Ziff Davis Internet's enterprise verticals group. Previously, Gallagher was technology editor for Baseline, before joining Ziff Davis, he was editorial director of Fawcette Technical Publications' enterprise developer publications group, and the Labs managing editor of CMP's InformationWeek. A former naval officer and former systems integrator, Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

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