IBM points services at e-workplaces

IBM Corp. on Thursday added to its Global Services arm a new e-Workplace practice aimed at helping enterprises construct multifaceted portals for employees and business partners.

The e-Workplace practice seeks to fuse IBM's expertise garnered from its own intranet with collaborative technologies such as e-meetings, e-learning, and instant messaging, according to IBM officials in Armonk, N.Y.

The offering will combine IBM's Global Services with a variety of technologies, including WebSphere Portal and Application Server, Lotus Domino Extended Search, Lotus Sametime and Quickplace, Tivoli Systems Inc. security management software, and DB2 Universal Database.

IBM said it plans to dedicate 2,000 service consultants and 300 researchers to the e-Workplace practice, which will also tap partners PeopleSoft Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., and Alcatel SA to deliver the intranet portals. Campbell Soup has signed on as the first customer for the e-Workplace practice.

Some of the benefits IBM is touting for its e-Workplace offering include reduced costs, boosted employee productivity, and faster time to market with Web-based initiatives.

Specifically, e-Workplace can give businesses the ability to streamline hundreds of existing intranet sites into single portal initiative, provide employee self-service for benefits and 401Ks, improve access to e-learning, bolster collaboration, and give better support for mobile and remote workers, according to IBM.

Because there are a number of different technologies involved in IBM's e-Workplace vision, bringing services into the mix is a good move, according to analyst Laura Ramos, research director at Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.

Furthermore, Ramos added that combining portal and application server technologies means that there is less code to write for deployment.

"So it really becomes an ideal platform for services people to go in and implement portals for specific business functions, like workplaces, for example, very rapidly," she said.

In a similar move, PwC Consulting in December rolled out a service offering designed to help businesses deploy a comprehensive portal infrastructure. PwC's B2E (business-to-extended enterprise) Solution Set combines consulting systems integration, IT services, and partner products to address portal deployment from strategy formation through implementation, according to officials at PwC Consulting, in New York, the management consulting services business of the PricewaterhouseCoopers organization.

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