IBM general manager of analytics and performance management Rob Ashe keynoted and provided deeper focus on the advancing set of technology and solutions for business at IBM Information on Demand conference. This builds on a larger agenda of IBM on information led business efforts (See: “IBM Doubles Down Again on Information Agenda at Annual Conference”) and significant news building on the recent dedicated IBM Cognos conference in May (See: “IBM and Cognos Software – Advancement but No News at Forum”). Of course the IBM recent acquisition of predictive analytics provider SPSS (See: “IBM Boldly Elevates Analytics with Acquisition of SPSS”) expands the BI and Performance Management portfolio significantly. Rob spoke to advance the need to predict and act, and need for real time and fact driven efforts for optimizing a range of business and process efforts. Rob is not new to this business and technology discussion as his 25 plus year experience in this specific industry provides him the ability to have a much deeper discussion than most in the industry and IBM who needed depth to provide confidence and trust in their efforts. IBM Cognos has brought IBM into new opportunities in the market with a unified platform, tools and suite of applications that compliments and extends value of their information agenda to a business one where it was not possible before.
The analytics discussion expanded further with the newly assigned leader Deepak Advani as VP Predictive Analytics and has been at IBM since 1992 though new to this software segment. Deepak is leading the SPSS team and their products into the IBM portfolio to ensure they get maximum value. Interesting that current executives from SPSS were not part of IBM’s conference or appear to be part of the new leadership team which might be good considering SPSS 40 years of history that might have been getting in the way of advancing their own business. IBM is clearly serious about this acquisition and is beginning to see the value of their technology that is not just predictive analytics and data mining but also text analytics and technology to support customer experience and related analytics (See: “IBM Will Discover Analytics for Customer Experience Management in SPSS”). SPSS can already deploy analytic models that can operate within IBM DB2 and other technologies that will be critical to embed analytics where they are needed. This clearly has much more potential that IBM retired data mining efforts with Intelligent Minder that were discontinued many years ago and were also ahead of the business demand and intellect of most organizations.
IBM reviewed the generally available Cognos 8 version four that brings new usability and business enablement of products from search, location, mobility, charting and annotations to make it more line of business user friendly and assessed as part of early review. (See: “Summit Reveals New Advancements from Cognos in Performance Management”). They also have rationalized the use of TM1 64 bit multidimensional server and its executive information viewer with limited Cognos 8 version 4 release as part of new IBM Cognos Express mid-market offering (See: “IBM Cognos Express Aims to Simplify Midmarket BI”) that is a major focus for them. A demo of Cognos 8 version 4 software provided focus on the needs of business users and analysts who need better capabilities than just using personal spreadsheets. IBM Cognos demonstrated this through looking at how market basket analysis, and examination through dashboards and integration into IBM InfoSphere and underlying business glossary to have common definition and information to help ensure anyone can understand the analytics. This information lineage helps increase the confidence and trust of information by knowing where the data originates. I was still hoping to see more in-depth conversation about much awaited efforts to have more robust BI on mobile devices such as Apple iPhone and other new versions like RIM BlackBerry.
IBM Cognos also announced but had already been shipping Cognos 8 Mashup Service that helps publish BI content into an information portal using the publicly available IBM iWidget specification. This subtle announcement is key to unifying information from across IBM software portfolio and the Internet into an easier to access information environment. IBM also directly discussed their support of investments in SAP and their application suite to ensure they are considered in their embrace and extend value your existing investments. IBM presented Chevron as one of their latest examples and they were on stage discussing their efforts on using BI to harvest data from SAP.
IBM did have new analytics solutions with customer, sales, talent management and procurement to serve business more effectively than just providing tools and technology. These solution sets provide a starting point for organizations to integrate their own data into an analytics model with metrics that has pre-built interfaces to support range of business roles. IBM Cognos discussed their new sales analytics solutions to support sales performance management with focus of capabilities in sales pipeline health, conversion, trending to sales segmentation, pricing, and sales force performance. The analytics can help sales organization but IBM Cognos will still need to improve usability of the applications where the diverse activities in one line of business organization need to have specific capabilities to meet their specific roles. The new announcements by IBM with analytics solutions will help IBM get closer to line of business that needs shorter IT cycles to meet their needs.
A new product was announced and demonstrated called IBM Cognos Content Analytics that enables business to analyze issues found across content and text to provide deeper insights to what needs to change to resolve issues. This could be inconsistency of product descriptions and definitions that are being used across multiple channels or ensuring that content is being utilized properly for customer interactions. It has been a challenge for some time for organizations to use and analyze semi-structured content and now IBM is stepping strongly to apply analytics to their enterprise content management offerings.
IBM has invested into a range of technology areas that Ventana Research has outlined as key areas for investments in 2009 like advanced analytics, social computing, text and unstructured and cloud computing. Many of these investments are now coming forward in a range of new products and ones over 2010. One of the future technologies that was demonstrated is called many eyes that demonstrates the ease of software running in cloud computing environment and ability to load data and explore it through new visualizations and capabilities. These efforts to showcase investments into innovations and technology advancements that can help shape customers view of IBM but what might be coming in future releases.
IBM is significantly investing into the use of analytics across business and industries to help support their alignment to their philanthropic mission of architecting a smarter planet that also provides the capitalist benefit of significant business potential (See: “IBM Executive Steve Mills Outlines Value of Software for Smarter Planet“). IBM largest challenge with their software investments will be to continue to simplify them and connect with those in line of business and ensure they can get smarter solutions in the right time frame at the right price.
Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Mark Smith - CEO & EVP Research