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IBM Adds More to Rational Portfolio

IBM continues to add features to the project and portfolio management software it bought last year and expects to continue a strategy of linking with other IBM products.

Big Blue released Rational Portfolio Manager 6.2 Tuesday, a free download or CD for existing customers, featuring a number of enhancements to the technology they acquired with the purchase of Systemcorp in October 2004. The release is the first major update to the software after buying the Systemcorp technology.

In what has been an ongoing strategy for the company since the purchase, IBM integrated Portfolio Manager with Rational Method Composer for business processes and the infrastructure tool suite Rational Team Unifying Platform (TUP) to drive more information into the software that keeps track of, and manages, the IT projects underway within the company.

TUP integration provides users with an analytic component to the software by including dashboards to track data and trends across the project portfolio. Portfolio Manager 6.2 with Method Composer lets managers use best practices to assign roles, responsibilities and resources to individual projects.

Roger Oberg, IBM Rational vice president of marketing, said the software linking is the driving force behind this release and gives business managers instant insight into how well the project is faring and how its managed.

"These integrations we can give you help you get some real-time feedback on the performance of any given development project," he said. "That helps you really sanity-check whether the investments that you've prioritized in your organization are really performing as you expected them to do since most of them have to do with some sort of software development."

Portfolio Manager 6.2 includes a new API toolkit that lets developers create extensions that allow them to plug in third-party software such as resource or financial management applications.

IBM isn't the only major software vendor placing emphasis on their project management product line. Last week Microsoft bought out one its business partners, UMT, to expand the capabilities of Office Enterprise Project Management (EPM).

The deal gives Microsoft customers the ability to wrap the projects created in Office Project into portfolios for better management.

Oberg said Microsoft's UMT acquisition is a recognition that project and portfolio management is taking a bigger role in the minds of company executives. He believes, of course, that IBM has a year's head start on Redmond.

"That relationship between the real-time performance of a project as measured by the development artifacts you're generating as you manage the project, that's a level deeper of capability that we're announcing here," he said. "Being able to define the project methodology you want to pursue and then use that as a project template is a level that Microsoft is not. They're recognizing the relationship, we're taking it a step deeper."