The core problem with enterprise IT as we know it today is that IT organizations spend an inordinate amount of time integrating software components and maintaining the systems those components run on. The end result is that IT organizations don't add as much value to the business as they might.
The challenge that IBM is trying to figure out how to address, says Doug Hunt, IBM vice president for business performance and service optimization, is how to deliver an overall IT environment that is more pre-engineered around an actual set of business processes. At the core of that effort, says Hunt, is the IBM WebSphere application server (WAS). But rather than thinking in terms of WAS and a host of plug-in modules, Hunt says customers should expect to see IBM focus more on how to manage data and information in the context of a specific business goal.
The IBM WAS environment will be embedded in many new offerings, says Hunt, with an eye towards making as many of them as turnkey as possible. In effect, WAS will function as a new type of cross-platform business operating system that drives a wide variety of business processes. Those offerings will be able to ultimately identify patterns in those business processes as part of an effort to further automate those tasks, notes Hunt.
IBM is still a long way from pulling all this together and there are still crucial components that need to be developed, such as a metadata server capable of tracking all the information associated with a specific business process and the content analytics engines needed to identify patterns within those processes. But it's pretty clear that IBM is out to transform the role IT plays within the overall business environment as part of a larger effort to redefine how it competes. The question this will raise for senior IT leaders is how they see themselves proving value inside their own organizations as business processes not only become more automated, but also more abstracted from the underlying IT infrastructure.