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IBM bites hard into business analytics

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IBM is betting business analytics software will be the next big wave hitting IT in the next decade, as more companies seek to cut costs by plumbing and optimizing all the data they're sitting on.

With high hopes for the market, Big Blue trundled out a major expansion of its analytics portfolio on Monday during its annual Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas.

"There is a shift underway from simple automation — the traditional IT spend associated with ERP and application-led automation — to business analytics and optimization; an information-led transformation," said Dave Laverty, vp of marketing, information management, IBM Software Group. "It's growing at twice the rate of the automation spend and this has really been the focus and all of the attention around this conference this year."

The new offerings range from new pre-configured analytics applications, enhancements to the InfoSphere line, and content analytics software that combines technologies from Cognos and FileNet.

IBM's new InfoSphere products support the company's "Smart Archive" push, designed for using content analytics, and data discovery to help customers earmark which data is necessary to retain and archive.

The new InfoSphere Content Assessment software uses data analytics to sort through unmanaged content in order to identify high-risk or valuable content that needs to managed throughout its lifespan, such as corporate records. IBM said it also can sniff out unnecessary data that's eligible for decommissioning for helping to free up archiving storage.

InfoSphere Content Collector has been upgraded with support for Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Optim Data Growth Solution. Content Collector offerings for email and file systems have also received enhancements. Content Collector software extracts metadata from files like email and file systems to classify for archiving.

A new version of IBM's InfoSphere Classification Module automates the creation of meta data by analyzing the full text of documents and emails.

InfoSphere Enterprise Records received an upgrade that lets it scale up to 20 million records per day. The software automates records management on a J2EE platform for meeting regulatory demands.

IBM also offered a preview of its new Information Archive Cloud Services — a web-based version of its Information Archive storage repository that stores a company's critical data such as email in a "security-rich offsite facility." The service will be operated by IBM's Business Continuity and Resiliency Services. No word on when the service will actually be available.

On the business analytics side of things, IBM is expanding its Cognos line with new modules.

The new Cognos Customer Performance Sales Analytics module creates a broad view of a sales department's performance across reps and customers to the actual order, IBM said. It reckons tracking the sales cycle based on analysis of different channel, customer, and product revenue streams will help organizations more quickly respond to revenue opportunities and threats.

Cognos Workforce Performance Talent Analytics is a module that provides standard reports for HR departments on workforce performance, such as talent acquisition, retention, development and succession. IBM said the software provides analysis on the cost and time involved with acquiring workers, as well as the effectiveness of sources such as websites or executives search firms.

Cognos Supply Chain Performance Procurement Analytics is designed to help procurement professionals assess their supplier's ability to deliver products and services in line with their contractual obligations and goals set by the manufacturer.

IBM has already made it clear that it will focus on high-margin areas such as software and services into the foreseeable future. It clearly believes business analytics will be a major hit within that area. The company said in a recent CIO survey, 83 per cent of those polled believe business intelligence and analytics will improve their organization's ability to compete in the market.

Big Blue has also put its money where its mouth is: earlier this year, IBM spent $1.2bn to purchase business intelligence and predictive analysis software maker, SPSS. It also paid $5bn to acquire Cognos in 2007. ®

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