Inside business: Technology trouble-shooter blazes ahead

BY ITS executives' own admission, International Network Services is one of the business world's best-kept secrets, writes Roger Trapp.

Even when compared with other hi-tech companies, the organisation that describes itself as "a global provider of enterprise network consulting and software solutions" has grown at an astonishing rate.

From a standing start seven years ago, the Silicon Valley company has grown into an organisation of 1,800 people on target to produce annual revenues of $300m (pounds 180m). Last month, it announced that sales in the first half of the current year rose 90 per cent to $138.2m.

Though many outsiders assume just about any infor-mation technology start-up is a licence to print money, the success of INS is attributed to the assistance it is able to give organisations in making their IT systems produce the much-promised improvements in business performance.

The acquisition last November of fellow California company VitalSigns Software enhanced that capability by introducing a range of products that allow IT professionals to keep a check on systems. On top of giving these specialists better monitoring equipment, such developments help them to support colleagues dealing with customers by providing better guarantees of service.

Roger Heule, director of international sales for the INSoft division, says this is increasingly important as organisations move further down the networked route. Even telecommuters and roving sales people can be supported in this way, meaning they are not frustrated by breakdowns in e-mail and other forms of communication.

"We're getting tools into the hands of the IT departments that help them identify problems before they happen," says Mr Heule. "We get rid of the blame game by isolating the problem."

It is perhaps indicative of the current levels of dissatisfaction in this area that INS already claims to have its software on 12 million desktops, and sees the number growing to 50 million by 2002. And it is not just in the United States, where customers include The Gap and MCI, that it is taking off. The UK office - set up about 18 months ago - claims British Gas as a customer, while the company is also expanding into continental Europe.

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