IBM has unveiled a human resources portal application that links its WebSphere platform with back-end SAP servers, in order to create a self-service platform for end-users.

The IBM Lotus Workforce Management software is the second of two “accelerators” IBM has released for getting users up and running quickly. In April, the company released its IBM Dashboard Accelerator for collecting performance data.

The company plans three more accelerators before the end of this year for content management, collaboration, and a suite of all four accelerators that lets IT roll out the package across the company.

The Workforce Management accelerator lets human resources turn over tasks such as address changes to end-users or delegated HR staff. A browser interface delivered via the WebSphere Portal connects directly to back-end SAP servers.

The accelerator approach represents a shift for IBM, which in the past provided tools to build portal applications to run within the WebSphere Portal environment.

Analysts say IBM's strategy is to give users choice and allow them to pick and choose which components to license.

IBM rival Microsoft has a similar connection between its Office applications and SAP as part of a package called Duet that connects the Office productivity applications to SAP data and business process. And Microsoft is positioning its SharePoint Server 2007 as a hub for all sorts of data-driven applications.

IBM is crafting its accelerators as pre-built services that plug into the IBM portal.

"You can access SAP, provide end-users the flexibility of drag-and-drop and click to action and all the Web 2.0 technologies," says Larry Bowden, vice president of portals and Web interaction services for IBM.

The pre-built services include the ability to set up a new employee with everything from issuing a badge to declaring tax withholdings, deprovisioning an employee including turning off the systems they have access to, and personal information changes associated with moves, marriages, child birth and retirement.

The portal can be set up for use by HR staff or directly for end-users to manage their own data.

IBM is packaging the HR accelerator for adoption by HR departments, who can purchase it with their own budget dollars and then run it on the WebSphere Portal infrastructure built and maintained by IT.

"These are smaller lighter packages then trying to buy an entire enterprise portal," says Bowden. "You can just buy this for your enterprise line of business."

IBM Lotus Workforce Management is priced at $50,000 per processor.