IBM Expands Cloud App Offerings To The Executive Suite

While CIOs and IT managers are often making cloud technology decisions, IBM is taking the position that C-level executives are increasingly adopting cloud applications for front-office tasks. When line-of-business executives have made those decisions in the past, such as when sales managers subscribe to, they have often made an end-run around the IT department.

"We like to think we're finally ending that," said Marc Dietz, director of IBM's SmartCloud Solutions portfolio, in an interview with CRN. He said the new Cloud Suite for the C-Suite is designed to encourage CIOs and line-of-business executives to work cooperatively when making cloud IT decisions.

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The new analytics software "allows the chief marketing officer and CIO to work better together," he said. In addition to providing line-of-business managers with the specific functionality they require, the applications meet the IT department's needs for integrated applications with flexible deployment options and enterprise-class security.

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The new IBM Social Media Analytics application allows marketers to analyze customer perceptions and sentiments in Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media, Dietz said. The software, developed in-house by IBM, relies on keyword analysis to help marketers gain feedback on customer buying trends. The application is available today.

"IBM's Social Media Analytics in the cloud focuses on what matters. It operates on the understanding that companies no longer control the conversation; they participate and influence," said Michael Porter, principal of the portal and social practice at Perficient, a St. Louis-based IBM partner, in an email to CRN. "Social Media Analytics helps you understand what's being said about you and when you should engage with key influencers. As a partner, we are now armed with the tools and technologies necessary to help our clients participate, engage and deliver." Earlier this month IBM said it is acquiring SoftLayer Technologies, a cloud computing infrastructure supplier, for an undisclosed sum -- rumored to be in the range of $2 billion.

IBM has made a number of cloud application acquisitions in recent years, and the company is assembling them into a comprehensive suite targeting chief marketing officers, chief procurement officers, chief supply officers, CFOs and human resource managers, Dietz said.

The product lineup includes, for example, the Kenexa talent management applications IBM acquired last year for $1.3 billion, the Emptoris supply chain management applications it purchased last year, and the Coremetrics and Unica online marketing software it acquired earlier.

Some of the applications are already integrated, and Dietz said there are more links to come as the cloud application suite is further developed.

Because many solution providers target specific line-of-business functions like supply chain management and HR, IBM is relying on partners to help spearhead sales of the cloud applications to new and existing customers, according to Dietz. IBM hosts some of the applications, while partners can host others.