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Tech Firms Gaining Ground in Professional Services

IT buyers in Fortune 1000 firms are looking upon professional services from tech providers with increasing credibility as the big consulting firms continue their efforts to redefine and rebrand themselves away from their accounting firm roots, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) said Thursday.

Citing its annual market position study of the leading technology and professional services firms, ITSMA said firms which were previously wary of professional services offered by tech companies -- because they might simply push their own products rather than those best suited to the task -- are now turning a favorable eye on companies like IBM , Hewlett-Packard , Microsoft , and Dell .

IBM Global Services is ahead of the entire pack, the study found, noting that it has "virtually doubled its lead in basic brand awareness and preference among large enterprise buyers of IT professional services and solutions."

Lexington, Mass.-based ITSMA said more than 25 percent of the buyers surveyed named IBM as the one firm they were most likely to call, and almost 40 percent pointed to IBM as a provider of IT professional services and solutions when asked for a list of top-of-mind firms. ITSMA said Accenture and EDS were second and third behind IBM, respectively, in both categories.

"Clearly IBM continues to do a great job in building its brand as a technology services leader," said Dave Munn, president and CEO of ITSMA. "As interesting, however, is the increasing consideration that buyers are giving to other technology companies like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and even Dell for high-end professional services. Buyers have long been wary of tech firms simply pushing their own products rather than the most appropriate solutions, but these firms scored well in favorability rankings and were right at the top of the list for buyers' most important concern, which is delivering on promises."

The survey also found that a "desire to control costs" topped out as the lead reason for changes in technology infrastructure, followed by "need for new functionality or apps." Third and fourth were a "desire to increase revenue" and "need for innovation." A need to simplify the computing environment and deal with staff shortages trailed the list.

The survey was conducted between January and March 2003, during which ITSMA interviewed 400 senior-level U.S.-based decision makers from both government organizations and companies that exceed $200 million in revenues. The executives were from nine vertical industries: communications, consumer product manufacturing, energy and utilities, financial services, government/public sector, health care delivery, industrial product manufacturing, retail and transportation.

ITSMA said 44 percent of respondents were business executives, 56 percent IT executives, 12 percent were C-level/president/general manager, and 14 percent were vice presidents.