i2 Technologies recently announced eSOA, an e-business extension to its
Strategic Opportunity Assessment services. Like its precursor, eSOA provides
a structured methodology for breaking down the complexities of e-business
so that clients can understand how they can capitalize on Internet technology
to streamline their businesses or pursue new Internet opportunities. eSOA
activities are performed by i2's Strategic Services Group.
Gourmet, a leading airline caterer, was one of the first companies to
take advantage of the new services and had positive things to say. "i2's
eSOA methodology distills e-business down to its essence, making the path
toward e-business and the opportunities inherent in e-business clear,"
said George Alvord, president, Gate Gourmet, Division of the Americas.
One result of Gate Gourmet's eSOA was e-gatematrix, a business-to-business
marketplace to manage catering and related services for the airline and
travel industries. Though Gate Gourmet seemed pleased with the results,
vendor-supplied strategic services are not for every company.
Vendors and analysts differ in their views on the merits and aims of vendor-supplied
strategic services. Vendors maintain that such services are intended merely
to assist companies understand how technology can help their businesses.
Many analysts view them as ploys to sell hesitant companies a slew of
products they don't really need. The truth usually falls somewhere in
between what is viewed by the vendor as an act of philanthropy and what
analysts feel is an outright scam.
other e-business software providers offer prospective clients high-level
consulting in advance of a software contract, none staff business consulting
groups as large or aggressive as i2's. In fact, the group is so pervasive
that it frequently collides with third party consulting partners in pre-sales
situations. The scope of services offered by i2 is also much broader than
those of its peers and overlap into areas traditionally the domain of
strategy firms. By allowing it to influence the design stage of a company's
Internet strategy, eSOA gives i2 the ability to suggest initiatives that
lend themselves to support by i2 applications. Companies in their zeal
to evolve into Internet-ready businesses often overlook the potential
conflict of interest this creates.
eSOA may be a good idea for companies that already have an understanding
of their Internet readiness and want to see how i2 products and services
can support internally-developed goals and business processes. Those companies
that are uncertain where they should spend money would do well to pass
over eSOA and seek help from a third party consultant who can conduct
an independent review. Otherwise, companies risk purchasing software that
supports i2's business objectives, not theirs.