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IBM Lotus Targets Consumer Product Industry

IBM has delivered its latest IBM Lotus Workplace product aimed at specific industries Thursday, this time in the consumer product market.

The announcement is Big Blue's third industry-specific offering in three months, enhancing the generic features of Workplace -- messaging (IM, email, etc.), collaboration and learning and Web content management.

The Armonk, N.Y., company released Workplace for retail store managers in October and for business controls reporting to cover Sarbanes-Oxley compliance a month later.

Due next month, the IBM Lotus Workplace for the Consumer Products Industry is an add-on component to IBM's WebSphere web services platform.

The Workplace is an integrated suite of IBM products - Workplace for collaboration between employees in the next office or neighboring continent; WebSphere Portal, the "home page" for the corporate intranet; and IBM Lotus Learning Management System, for e-learning.

IBM officials visited with several companies in the consumer products industry and asked CIOs what their "pain points" were with employee collaboration. What they found, said Larry Bowden, IBM vice president of Portal and Lotus Products, was that companies needed to get product information out quicker and on an integrated platform so everyone could find the information easier.

What gives the software offering the "industry-specific" moniker is attributable to IBM's partnership with SkillSoft, an e-learning software provider out of Nashua, N.H. SkillSoft, in this case, has made and will make learning modules that are of particular use to employees in the consumer product industry.

For example, if a new product comes out, the company will create a training regimen of interactive videos, documents and tests to ensure everyone is trained on that new product.

Tied in with IBM's learning management software, employers will be able to determine who has or hasn't taken the required tests, how many passed (or failed) and how effective the training was (or wasn't). Pre-built training modules include office safety and management techniques.

The end result is software tailored to meet the needs of the consumer product industry, part of IBM's strategy to focus its end-to-end software.

"(Thursday's announcement) is an example of what IBM has been talking about, of moving into what we see of the new buying patterns of customers being, where they want to obtain business solution packages rather than independent technology products," Bowden said, "and you're going to see more and more from us offering consumers products that align with them."

Bowden said in the coming months they will release software packages in the financial and insurance, telecommunications and manufacturing industries.