OPINION

CeBIT Signals IT Rejuvenation

Having become the centerpiece of thousands of companies’ marketing efforts, CeBIT, which was held this year in Hannover, Germany from March 10-16, serves as a great industry barometer. With so many announcements made across the entire IT industry, I focused only on the business process halls, where software companies exhibited.

What’s immediately apparent when walking through this show is that it is serious business for the companies exhibiting. For some, the spending they do on CeBIT represents their total marketing budget for the year. As a result, the pressure to move prospects through the sales process, generate leads and meet with existing customers makes it even more expensive to attend. It’s as if this show was a seven-day sales call with no break.

The Anti-COMDEX

Does anyone miss the chaos of COMDEX? Missing the parties is one thing, but missing the unorganized approach to exhibits is another. CeBIT, despite having nearly triple the exhibitors (2,340 versus 6,270) and double the attendees, is organized to let attendees spend their time efficiently. COMDEX, on the other hand, seemed to focus on leasing real estate on the floor like a land developer subdivides parcels along major roads. This was great for large vendors who could afford it but caused traffic jams on the show floor, which took valuable time from attendees and limited their visits to smaller vendors’ booths.

CeBIT is comprised of 27 halls and seven pavilions and open-air sites; it’s possible to visit dozens of companies in a day. By the afternoon you can get a sense of trends in any area of information technology, telecommunications, software and service. In addition to making hall assignments by product category, CeBIT has created color-coded zones for business processes, communications, digital equipment and systems, banking and finance, the future, the public sector and special displays.

The future area includes new and emerging technologies. Here’s a map of how the exhibits are organized.

The show also has its funny moments. At the Beer Garden inside the CeBIT Grounds there’s a lion over ten feet tall on a blue pedestal that starts roaring periodically, and the roar turns into “Lowenbrau!” which startles anyone nearby. The best joke of all was from one session where a presenter from a German software company said that he wanted to refute the reputation Germans have for quantifying tasks and processes. As he opened up his argument, he promptly launched a slide presentation, and said, “To begin, slide number one ….”

Signs of Rejuvenation

Because CeBIT was so well organized you can move through it quickly, meeting with vendors, potential prospects and partners. Here are some of the signs of IT rejuvenation seen at this year’s show:

  • China has over 200 exhibiting companies this year, a new record. With everything from digital cameras, RFID devices and convergence products that combine phone, camera and MP3 players, China emerged at this CeBIT with evidence of just how quickly its economy is expanding.
  • Indian outsourcing startups are easier to find than a Starbucks. Indian outsourcing companies represented a pervasive trend; there must have been more than thirty companies all focused on some phase of business process, software development or call center outsourcing scattered throughout the business process area.
  • RFID goes global. SAP and Intel used CeBIT to announce their partnership to co-develop products. In nearly every developing nation’s booth you could find RFID scanners, tag manufacturing equipment or software. RFID was one of the most pervasive technologies at this show, from the most simplistic approaches in emerging nations looking to increase production to the most complex, where SAP, Intel and others showed intensive applications to support data collection, management and analysis.
  • SAP partnerships are busting out all over. The level of activity, number of partners, and the sheer size of the SAP partnership booth were impressive. With a retro ’60s look complete with a second story that included a conference room, SAP showed why nearly every software company in Northern, Central and Southern Europe had better have either a partnership or an integration strategy with them. The traffic in this booth was impressive, as was the range of partnerships and applications shown. As a barometer, this signals that partnerships inside SAP may be gaining momentum.
  • ILOG JRules 5.0 will change business process management. ILOG is a French-based company that specializes in business rules management, focusing on the process optimization needs of several verticals. Their JRules 5.0 release sets the foundation for a strong business rules management system.
  • Open source, Novell style. There was plenty of activity in the open-source area of the hall, with the biggest buzz of the show surrounding Novell and its announcement of the April release of SuSE Linux 9.3, which will include the Linux operating system and a set of desktop and home networking applications.
  • WiFi for service management. The long-held vision of being able to dispatch service technicians to specific tasks depending on the spare parts inventory in their trucks was a theme at CeBIT. Service lifecycle management gets much focus here, as one of the resurging verticals globally is telecommunications. Small and large vendors alike are galvanized on this vision.

Summary

These are just the high points. SAP announced its latest ERP suite one month early during the show. Microsoft and a regional partner, T-Systems, announced Navision would be available on a hosted platform. There were on average over 300 new announcements made show-wide every day.

CeBIT showed that business model innovation, which was the heart of SAP’s Dr. Henning Kagermann’s keynote presentation, is happening. Dr. Kagermann says that business value chains are fundamentally changing and that IT architectures must follow. You can see his slides here. CeBIT began to foreshadow this dynamic this year, which means this is one event that’s worth monitoring.


Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He recently completed the book Getting Results from Your Analyst Relations Strategies, which is available on Amazon.com.


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