Interesting news item - on the one hand, it seems straightforward. IBM partners with a well-known human capital management vendor that has a strong offering in the LMS/e-Learning space. The Saba partnership provides IBM with a few things:
- It allows IBM to exist this business and provide existing Lotus Learning customers a migration path (to Saba)
- It allows IBM to sell Saba's learning solution directly (augmenting the value proposition of WebSphere Portal via a learning accelerator)
- It allows IBM's human capital management consulting practices to sell a learning solution that sits on top of IBM infrastructure
However, there are some nuances in the deal. The focus of the partnership is between Saba's platform and IBM's WebSphere platform, not the Lotus software stack. Specifically, there was no mention of what the deal means in terms of Lotus Connections and Saba Social. As learning strategies focus more on the informal, more social aspects of how people learn, display talent, gain/share expertise - the deal creates/reinforces a competitive touch point. It's unclear to me, how Saba can expect IBM to sell its social networking solution over Lotus Connections (as it stands today). By giving IBM the upper hand in selling the core Saba platform into IBM accounts - has Saba abandoned any real hope of selling Saba Social into those accounts? I think so. And that's not good news from a long-term perspective for Saba. Our field research project identified strategic talent and learning initiatives as key factors driving interest in enterprise social networking projects.
One of Saba's main challenges as it enters the social networking space is to overcome significant go-to-market hurdles (being well known by customers and prospects in the HCM space does not necessarily transfer over being well known to decision-makers on social networking strategies. One technical/tactical workaround would be for Saba to deliver modules that integrated within Lotus Connections (via a plug-in/widget of some sort, or through Connections' REST and other programmable interfaces). Overall, it still strikes me that this deal makes it harder for Saba to sell its own social networking approach into IBM shops. Given Saba's platform exploits IBM infrastructure, that tactical workaround might become strategic unless the company can shift gears and extend other collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft SharePoint, or focuses on vertical capabilities (such as social network analysis with learning and talent in mind).
Saba Expands Relationship with IBM Around People Management
REDWOOD SHORES, CA and CAMBRIDGE, MA, May 12, 2009 — Saba Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: SABA) and IBM today announced that they are working together to help businesses harness and develop talent.
The companies are combining expertise to offer organizations a threefold approach to people management. This includes human capital management services and consulting from IBM and advanced enterprise learning solutions from Saba. In addition, IBM will offer a new Learning Accelerator for WebSphere Portal that is based on Saba Learning.
The combination of IBM and Saba can help businesses save time and money by reusing the same IT infrastructure for learning that is used for their corporate intranet and extranet. In addition, enterprises can capitalize on the many opportunities for informal and formal learning created by the “always on,” collaborative and social networking-focused culture of today’s businesses. By combining learning opportunities with portal-based collaboration, employees, customers and partners can participate in broader informal learning channels, making them more effective and productive.
As part of Saba’s unified people management platform, Saba Learning is a comprehensive management system for formal and informal learning that enables organizations to identify, manage, develop, and measure the capabilities and knowledge of people throughout an enterprise, as well as empower them to connect and contribute their expertise. Saba Learning provides organizations with leading capabilities for catalog and curriculum management; compliance, continuing education, and competency management; for-profit training; content development and management; virtual learning; informal learning; and collaboration.
IBM Global Business Services’ worldwide human capital management practice provides advisory and implementation services to enable enterprise performance through improved workforce effectiveness. The IBM Workforce & Talent Solutions (WTS) offering integrates services from Human Capital Management practice with a wide range of tools, technologies, and IBM Research projects, including Saba’s learning and people management applications. WTS is the first holistic offering in the talent management marketplace that addresses the science of people management throughout the entire employee lifecycle.
Since Saba and IBM support open standards, Saba's learning capabilities can be surfaced in context within WebSphere Portal. This combination can also be expanded to other IBM collaboration tools allowing people to easily locate experts, share information and participate in broader communities of interest.
When Saba’s learning capabilities are coupled with WebSphere Portal, businesses can empower employees to work smarter. The personalization capabilities of a portal can display customized views of the applications and information a person needs based on their job role. Surfacing formal learning opportunities within this context can help employees relate what they are learning to the task at hand. In addition, portals help make learning easier by putting content in a context where it is most meaningful to end users.
The New IBM - Saba Relationship
IBM and Saba have worked together for years. Almost five years ago Saba integrated IBM's middleware into its product so the companies could work well together, and today Saba supports the entire range of IBM middleware in its product set. IBM actually uses Saba internally as its formal learning management system for all 300,000+ employees. (IBM's informal learning is done in a far different way, which we describe in detail in our in-depth case study on IBM's Learning on Demand solution.)
Last year IBM's Global Business Services organization announced that its worldwide Human Capital Management Practice was offering an end-to-end solution for enterprise talent management solutions built around Saba. This offering, which is still relatively new, has taken hold and has resulted in many major new Saba implementations.