Under the agreement, IBM will provide the airline with systems and administrative support for employee travel, benefits, payroll, time management, data management and other functions. IBM will also provide application support for Air Canada's underlying HR systems.
Services will be delivered from IBM data centers in Montreal, Saint John, NB, and Manila in the Philippines. The agreement builds on an existing information technology outsourcing deal Air Canada has with IBM.
"The search for a services provider for Air Canada's HR operations centered on finding a vendor with a strong services offering, a commitment to drive transformation, and a proven ability to ensure delivery and lower costs," said Kevin Howlett, Air Canada's senior VP for Employee Relations.
[ IBM also is winning hardware deals. Read IBM Tops Oracle, HP In Data Center Win. ]
IBM has steadily built up a portfolio of HR technology and services to challenge industry specialists like Dell's Perot Systems unit and Xerox's ACS unit, as well as standalone players like Xcel HR and ADP. Big Blue's offerings in the market include HR reporting and analytics tools, recruitment services, and compliance support.
Many of the company's HR tools are available through the cloud with on-demand, variable pricing, enabling customers to reduce capital expenses associated with HR functions. The build-out has helped IBM win lucrative HR services deals with a number of corporate giants, including American Airlines, Unilever, and Canadian Pacific.
"Taking advantage of leading Internet technology, analytics, and more efficient business processes can help them provide the best level of services and improve the overall employee experience," said Mark Levy, general manager for HR services at IBM.
High-margin business services represent the end game in IBM's now decade-long shift away from commodity hardware like PCs and commercial printers. The company has built a business technology stack, including middleware and analytics, that can be used not only by customers directly but also by IBM itself to run business operations on behalf of clients.
The effort appears to be paying off. IBM's revenue from business services, including HR outsourcing, grew a healthy 9% in the most recent quarter and accounted for about 18% of total revenue. The company is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Oct. 17.
In the new, all-digital issue of Network Computing: Microsoft and Citrix are closing the gap with VMware. Before you roll out the latest edition of vSphere, reconsider your virtualization platform. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)