Lucent’s enterprise services on the block

Lucent Technologies Inc. is putting its corporate professional services unit up for sale as it streamlines its operations to focus on large service providers.

The struggling network infrastructure provider hopes to find a buyer by the end of this year for the corporate services portion of its Lucent Worldwide Services business, Lucent spokesman Bill Price said Tuesday. Until a sale is completed, the company will continue to work with customers. The corporate services group helps businesses design and implement their networks, recommending the best products for the job regardless of vendor.

Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent will keep the larger portion of the services group that is geared toward large service providers.

Lucent Worldwide Services has its roots in International Network Services, which Lucent acquired in October 1999. At that time, Lucent touted it as the only vendor-neutral network consulting business affiliated with a major network equipment vendor. The Worldwide Services business as a whole has about 24,000 employees worldwide.

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., the unit serving corporations has about 1,400 employees and 600 customers in North America and Europe. It provides services to more than 50 of the companies in the Fortune 100, Price said.

There are many potential buyers for the business, and a sale probably would not cause a disruption for customers, analysts said. Still, customers should keep an eye on the transition.

“If most of the management team comes with the business, then there’s a higher degree of confidence that they won’t skip a beat,” said Richard Dean, a professional services analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. “But if you see people jumping ship … prior to the sale … I think there’s an opportunity for them to slip and miss a beat,” he added.

One company that might be interested in buying the business is Avaya Inc., the enterprise network equipment vendor that was spun off from Lucent last year, said Eric Goodness, a professional services analyst at Gartner Inc., in Lowell, Mass.

Growth in the professional services industry has slowed along with carrier expansions and corporate purchases of new equipment, IDC’s Dean said. He expects overall revenue to grow 14 per cent this year and 10 per cent to 11 per cent in 2002, down from more than 17 per cent growth in 2000.

Lucent’s sale of the enterprise services unit is part of an overall strategy to return the company’s focus to its traditional customers.

“Their focus is shifting away from the enterprise segment and more toward serving the largest service providers worldwide,” Dean said.

Lucent, in Murray Hill, N.J., is at