IBM Takes On Demand Into The Cubicle

Figuring its infrastructure model for business optimization would work
just as well in the cubicle, IBM retooled and launched
Tuesday its newest utility computing offering — Workplace on demand.

For months, The Armonk, N.Y., company has been conducting a marketing
blitz on its new back-office services/software/hardware solution;
code-named Project Symphony, it is nearing
as a complete solution, though pieces of the solution are
available for sale today.

Like the heat that you use or the water you drink, utility computing
charges businesses for the IT services they use, when they have the
need. IBM thinks they’ve got it to work for the infrastructure, now
they want to see if they can make it work for the printers, PCs, faxes,
copiers, PDAs and laptops used by corporate workers.

The premise is simple: companies spend a lot of money on the
maintenance, support and supplies that go into the hardware used
everyday by millions of workers. Printers and faxes need new ink
cartridges and reams of paper, while users crash laptops and PCs.

Big Blue officials say that while an IT department might carefully plan
out and launch a network server deployment, printers and PCs are usually
deployed in an ad hoc and scattered manner. Departments buy printers or
PCs based on their preference, which are completely different than the
needs of another.

“It’s pretty embarrassing, but many companies tend not to know how many
devices have proliferated throughout their enterprise,” said Jim Bolton,
an IBM output solutions program manager. “They really don’t know what
they’re spending on their supplies because that’s not in the IT budget,
that’s in the department’s budget.

“The way they make business decisions today is, some things are run by
facility management, some things are acquired from the CFO office and a
few things are bought by IT,” he continued. “Part of what we’re
offering is a way to get that all consolidated and show them what
they’re spending.”

Like its Project Symphony counterpart, Workplace On Demand puts IBM
technicians on the floor, recommending the best deployment of new
hardware and software from a holistic point of view, rather than
department by department. Getting everything under one roof, so to
speak, will garner up to 30 percent in savings, IBM officials predicted.

They pointed to one such example of cost-savings: printer ink. Using
inkjet printers, the cost of printing a single page costs the company a
quarter. But by switching to a workgroup laser printer — more
expensive on the front-end than an inket– it’s is much more economical
over the long haul at five cents a copy.

IBM also points to a META Group study, which finds that it costs between
$3,000-5,000 per year for every PC in the workplace for help desk
support, fixes and maintenance.

With Workplace On Demand, companies aren’t locked into buying IBM
products when they look to upgrade, though you can be sure they’ll try.
Instead, the company said it will adopt a technology-agnostic view to
hardware and work with whatever technology the company wants.

“To be honest, we’re going to try to take as much IBM technology as
possible, but this is a service-led kind of thing,” Bolton said.
“Today, we take over environments that have Sun servers, HP servers and
IBM servers and help transition them over to any brand they feel
comfortable with.”

Billing will be handled on a monthly basis at a rate that depends on the
services bought. IBM has broken it down into four areas:

  • Consulting and implementation – IBM’s end-to-end services
    component, consulting companies on the best ways to streamline and
    implement a corporate-wide deployment schedule with optimized printers,
    PCs and wireless devices. The service also comes with a project manager
    to keep track of purchases and where they went, as well as consolidated
    billing for PC purchases.
  • Managed desktop services – A per-user service, with support
    hardware, software and network support handled either online through
    IBM’s virtual help desk or over the phone using end user support
  • Output management services – Billed per page copied, IBM
    technicians will first spend on average two weeks designing and
    implementing a printer/fax/scanner/copier deployment in the
  • Wireless and mobility services – Design and implementation
    consulting service to deploy the best wireless systems for use in the
    workplace or on road, whether its a Blackberry or wireless laptop.

Currently, Workplace On Demand is only available in North America,
though officials pointed out it supports businesses with offices in
other parts of the world. Bolton said a worldwide product will be
available soon.