Sat, 27 Sep 2003

IT solutions now integral part of doing business

Sudibyo M. Wiradji, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Information technology (IT) has lately begun to show its irresistible force in Indonesia and has been adopted by many companies as an integrated part of their overall business.

In the past, companies generally considered the IT division to mainly be the concern of technicians, but as time has gone by, and with the increasing range of problems that can be solved with the assistance of this technology, many business executives have finally woken up to the need, for example, for web-based solutions.

Along with other corporate business divisions like marketing, sales and services, IT is now regarded as playing an equally pivotal role in boosting corporate performance. Therefore, many large companies have drawn up business blueprints that place IT at the forefront.

Imagine how difficult it was for one to track individual customers manually when the number of customers reached into the thousands. With database applications, however, tracking customers only takes minutes.

A broad range of business solutions is now available on the market to meet customers' need, such as solutions in the finance, revenue, operations, logistics and human resources fields. Many small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and large businesses have also taken advantage of business solution services related to network infrastructure, like Internet Banking, e-Procurement, and setting up corporate websites/homepages.

PT Oracle Indonesia, PT Cisco Systems Indonesia, PT Microsoft Indonesia and PT SAP Indonesia are among the providers of the sort of business solutions services that have been in increasing demand from customers.

IT-based business solutions services started to enter the market between 1997 and 1998 when many financially ailing companies were taking efficiency measures to survive the country's worst-ever economic crisis. These business applications allowed them to detect and monitor the overall business operations system so that management knew precisely which division required cost reductions for efficiency's sake.

"With these systems, they (the company management) could decide on the best action to take to generate profit or at least to survive the crisis," said PT Oracle Indonesia's Marketing Director Goenawan Loekito.

Despite the improving macro-economic situation, the demand for IT-based business solutions services continues to increase from year to year.

However, Indonesia's total Internet spending remains small. Indonesians spent about US$1 billion for IT purposes in 2002 compared to the $2 billion spent by Malaysia and $3 billion by Singapore in 2002.

According to the International Data Center (IDC), of the country's total IT spending in 2002, the financial sector, including the banking, insurance and financial services sectors contributed 25 percent, the manufacturing sector 21 percent and the communications and media sector 16 percent. The money was spent on IT components, including setting up network infrastructure, peripherals/scanners, IT services, PCs, storage and software.

PT Microsoft Indonesia, in partnership with PT Astra Graphia, offers QPR management software which can help corporate users to monitor cost structure, business processes as well as strategies and performance. With QPR software solutions, customers can manage and predict their business in a more effective way.

For human resources development, PT Microsoft Indonesia has created a web-based application providing easy to use and complete employee self-service (EES), covering such things as expense claims, medical claims, leave and approval processes.

PT Oracle Indonesia's latest business solution, called e- business suite, enables executives to analyze sales performance, revenue position as well as customer segmentation.

The system also helps executives analyze other issues like the business process flows, including the flow of goods, and cash and sales, so that the management can detect if there are any deviations and take necessary steps.

"Basically, we provide business solutions tailored to companies' needs," Goenawan said.

Like software applications, business solutions also require reliable IP-based network infrastructure to ensure that the applications run well. Some Indonesian companies have installed IP-based network infrastructure since the 1990s to support their business applications.

The demand for IP-based network infrastructure has continued to increase since then.

According to IDC, PT Cisco Systems, which specializes in IP- based network infrastructure, still dominates the market, with a 61 percent market share for switches and over 94 percent for routers as of September 2003.

Cisco Systems offers end-to-end solution intelligent information networks. The solutions include LAN (Local Area Network) Switch, IP Core Router, IP Communication Solution, Cisco IP Telephony and IP Contact Center (IPCC).

By using IP telephony that employs centralized Cisco Call Manager, a bank with an extensive network, for instance, no longer needs to install the PBX system in each of its branches because the Cisco network infrastructure applies "converged network infrastructure" that enables the convergence of data and voice in the Cisco network infrastructure.

"With the IP-based IPCC, the call center agent can be placed anywhere provided that there is connectivity between the agent and the call center," said PT Cisco Systems Indonesia Technical Sales Director Budi Santoso Sutanto. .