Groupware Vendors Compete for Integrator Loyalty

No competition between software developers underscores the influence of enterprise integrators better than the industry's escalating groupware wars. Groupware, the network-savvy software frequently battered by erroneous media reports, is now fueling a global contest that will be fought and won largely through integrator partnerships.

Lotus Development Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. have each carefully courted top integrators in an attempt to add the integration muscle they'll need to answer the complex demands of their global customers. The result is an enormous profit opportunity for integrators.

And while certain groupware integrator partnerships have already bore fruit, others have only begun to take shape. The latest integrators to align with a developer partner are BDM and Perot Systems. The two integrators have teamed with Novell Inc. to support the developer's just-released GroupWise 5 client/server e-mail system. As so-called enterprise consulting partners, BDM and Perot will support Novell commercial and government clients in their migrations to and adoption of the GroupWise 5 solution.

BDM and Perot join the likes of EDS and IBM, who long ago began pursuing groupware partnerships. While the acquisition of Lotus by IBM last year led the way to perhaps the industry's most visible groupware integrator alliance, Microsoft has wasted little time in capturing new mindshare at EDS, where its groupware product exchange is part of an in-house, companywide rollout.

At different times it has been suggested in the press and elsewhere that groupware is in direct competition with the dazzling groundswell of World Wide Web technologies. As any integrator executive will tell you, no such competition exists, and the alleged rivals are instead overlapping technologies whose origins and focus are widely different.

For its part, groupware creates an environment in which groups of individuals can share information over both local and wide area networks.

The drawback is that groupware tends to limit users to organizational networks. But here's where integrators are now lending a hand.

As the third largest groupware vendor, Novell estimates that the professional services market related to GroupWise 5 alone to be between $500 million and $1 billion. Add to that revenue captured through deploying associated intranet and data security strategies, and the integrator opportunity should be multiplied several times.

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