IBM Tailors New Workplace For Line-Of-Business Folks

IBM unveiled yet another Workplace product on Friday. This one, dubbed IBM Workplace for Business Strategy Execution, promises to meld the perks of an executive dashboard with the relevance of departmental tasks.

The product, basically an add-on for WebSphere Portal, is aimed at aligning portal-surfaced information with a given business's goals and needs, said Jeremy Dies, offerings manager for IBM Workplace. The big goal is relevance.

"Companies have spent money and time to make sure users have access to the right data, money spent on the backend and portals but the information often doesn't' relate back to corporate strategy, it has insight into specific processes, but is not related to overall objectives," Dies said.

The software offers easy customization capabilities for VARs and integrators. "It takes that business strategy aim and cascades it through .you can define objectives and assign ownership to tasks. It provides scorecarding and dashboarding," he said.

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At the backend, hard core analytics engines from Cognos or Business Objects can feed their data into the relevant portal.

Jim Murphy, regional manager of long-time IBM partner Strategic Computer Solutions, thinks the offering will give his company access to a new audience in existing accounts.

"The main thing for us—we're WebSphere Portal and Workplace experts—is that WBSE allows us to go into the line of business guys. Currently we mostly talk to IT staff," he said.

Companies like Strategic have done one-off development to offer similar capabilities but this gives them a more repeatable sale, he said.

"IBM has taken a best of breed solution, scorecarding, and standardized it, put some formal development behind it and lets us sell it as 'appware' or a templatized application. When we do projects for customers, they typically own the IP so we can't do a cookie-cutter approach. This helps us do that," Murphy said.

Providing relevant business metrics has become a huge priority for tech vendors. Later this year, Microsoft plans to introduce its Office Business Scorecard Manager, aka Maestro, later this year.

For small and medium businesses, the offering costs $99 per user as an add-on to existing WebSphere portal infrastructure or $196 per user with the portal included. An enterprise edition costs $95,000 per CPU or $218,000 per CPU with the portal.

The offering is available now for Windows, with Linux and Unix versions to follow.