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UWM announces new IBM data center
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Journal Sentinel


Technology companies IBM Corp. and SAP AG are teaming up with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Lubar School of Business to establish a data center that focuses on bringing more technologically trained business graduates into the workforce.

The center is being unveiled on Monday.

IBM is providing computer hardware, software and training for the center, officially known as "The Technology Innovation Datacenter - Powered by IBM," university officials said.

The data center features the high-performance IBM Power 750, the server used for IBM's Watson, the recent "Jeopardy" winner.

The data center will support the SAP University Competence Center, which is located in the Lubar School. The UCC is a hub for universities across a large portion of North America that offer a technology-focused business curriculum.

"The UCC provides hosting services and help-desk support for faculty and the 40,000-plus students in the more than 100 universities in North America where SAP software is used to reinforce and supplement classroom content," UWM said.

"Students from all over North America can access the center via the Internet to use in their course work," said Dave Haseman, director of the Lubar School's Center for Technology Innovation and IBM Professor of Information Technology Management.

The Lubar School's UCC is one of only five such competence centers in the world.


A business, tech marriage

Demand for workers who have a combination of technology and business skills is growing.

"It's huge," said Aaron Ritchie, managing director at Experis, the specialty recruitment arm of ManpowerGroup that focuses on information technology, engineering and finance/accounting.

In a survey released this month of 40,000 employers in 39 countries, 89% of those surveyed cited a lack of people with exactly those skill sets - the ability to take technology and marry it to business, either processes or goals or products, efficiencies, things of that nature, Ritchie said.

"We're seeing quite a large demand for it," he said.

"Employers have gotten more specific about the types of skill sets of people that they are looking to bring in," Ritchie added. "Not only are they seeking those technical capabilities in the job match, but they are holding out for the people that also have the ability to understand business processes, interpersonal skills and a cultural fit that will help drive their organizations forward."

The program is more than a pipeline to send employees to IBM and SAP.

"They're not asking me to turn these people into IBM employees or turn them into SAP employees," Haseman said. "It's clear I'm not signing them onboard to send all my students to work for them. That's not part of the relationship at all."

That said, IBM recognizes there is a growing need for technology workers with a business background, said David W. Smith, an IBM vice president and the company's senior state executive for Wisconsin.

"Several years ago I think it became clear to everyone that almost no individual firm can accomplish its goals by trying to do it all itself," Smith said. "In order for it to grow, it needs to stimulate pools of skilled people globally."

The partnership with SAP and UWM will help achieve that, Smith said.

It will also help IBM analyze what are the best ways to make sure students are learning the skills they need for the workplace, Smith said.

Competitive process

The partnership with IBM and SAP was nearly two years in the making, Haseman said.

"Back in the '80s or '90s, it was pretty common for computer companies to give equipment to universities," he said. "It doesn't happen as much anymore."

It was a competitive process to land the center, Haseman added. "Everybody would like a relationship with IBM. We had to make our case."

The center's course of study differs from a computer programming curriculum, focusing on using software in a business setting.

"We're not teaching people how to program SAP," Haseman said. "What we are teaching in our courses is how to use it and how to help companies who are installing it to install it correctly."

The course of study also includes statistics, accounting, information systems, marketing, production, finance and humanities courses.

The goal is having well-rounded graduates who have studied business and also know their way around technology.

"In the older days, our students basically were programmers. Today, they do lots of other things," Haseman said. "It's just a different orientation that we've had to go to in the last couple years to meet what industry tells us we should be doing."

The job demand has come about has the economy has rebounded.

"Information technology is just starting to reignite again," Haseman said. "Last year, kids were looking and couldn't find much. This year I've had a number of students in my office with multiple offers trying to decide which one to take.

"That's very good news."