I had a great discussion last week with a professor of business technology about standards efforts and how so many of them have flopped over the past few decades. And whether big, powerful companies will succeed (in the long term) in sustaining a level of influence and control over their suppliers and business partners to support their own standards of doing business, both in terms of technology and business processes (think Wal-Mart and its RFID mandates). This isn't a new concept, but it is a growing one, and one that increasingly relies on emerging technologies.
While attempts at standardization don't always work flawlessly, I believe that when the need and the pressure come from the business user, we'll find they're far more effective than when they're dictated by the vendor community. Time will tell whether that holds true with Boeing, Wal-Mart, and other companies that wield this kind of influence. This week, we explore another example of this level of customer demand. Want a piece of General Motors' plan to spend $15 billion in outsourcing over the next five years? Well, you have to be willing to work with your competitors to come up with standards for network provisioning, configuration management, and other common IT functions. GM's CIO Ralph Szygenda is enforcing standards for about 30 different processes to save the automaker money, and EDS, IBM, and Accenture are taking note.
Other outsourcers are meeting an increasingly demanding customer set with new pricing models, partnerships with offshore companies, and support for emerging technologies. For more, see "Brave New World".
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