Over-promises and under-delivery--the defining characteristics of the early wave of client-server integration--are making a return engagement in the emerging e-business market.
But for Martin Wright, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Emerald Solutions Inc., there's gold in those faults. The 2-1/2-year-old integrator, which provides top-down e-biz services to the Fortune 1000, aims to brand itself as the perfect antidote to customer confusion.
"All the old silver bullets like client-server and object-oriented technology are gone now, but in looking back on those underperformers, we learned a lot about what works and doesn't work," explains Wright. "Most important, we learned that the Internet is no silver bullet, and focusing on the newest technology trends, as many consultants do, is only going to cause more failure ... more Java jockeys building more point solutions aren't the answer."
Emerald yesterday unveiled its answer in the form of a new corporate brand identity called "e-business engineering." In essence, the new solutions delivery model incorporates the big-picture, "look-under-the-hood" approach favored by large competitors like USWeb/CKS and IBM Global Services.
Under this framework, the integrator initially sells the client on a comprehensive solution to a business problem and works its way down from there. Typically, Emerald's e-biz engineering projects will encompass a wide range of services, from strategy and IT consulting, to packaged software implementation, right through to legacy systems integration.
Emerald's unique spin on the top-down delivery methodology is in its approach to staffing these engagements. Rather than going the traditional route, creating project teams with discrete technicians, program management types and strategists, the integrator plans to deploy interdisciplinary teams of e-biz "engineers"--experienced, multifaceted professionals who can look at, say, a new billing data-analysis extranet and see clearly how its implementation will disrupt the future flow of business.
"Without e-biz engineers who understand the process of software development, there's no mechanism for having 'traceability' [the ability to trace every solution component back to the fundamental business strategy]," adds Adam Kapel, a principal in Emerald's strategies and services practice. Likewise, these multidimensional leaders are key to achieving repeatability, attainability and adaptability, all elementary principles of good project management. Emerald, says Kapel, is willing to sacrifice some of its profit margins in pursuit of higher-salaried e-biz engineers from the major consultancies.
The integrator, which employs 383 and sports annual revenues in the $70 million range, has no great desire to partner up with larger competitors, believing that the subcontractor role would dilute its new brand. But Emerald does plan in the coming weeks to announce an "e-partner" program to allow it to tap into the expertise of small Web-content specialists across the country.