New data analysis apps part of IBM's industry-specific BI vision

IBM released new industry-specific BI and data analysis applications at its Information on Demand conference and detailed a partnership with statistical analytics specialist SPSS.

Staying true to past practices, IBM used the occasion of its latest Information on Demand (IOD) conference to unveil

a slew of new and enhanced software and services, most focused on business intelligence (BI) and data analysis.

Among them are new industry-specific data analysis applications for financial performance, human resources and customer management that IBM says will help customers analyze and manage large amounts of data in real time.

New industry models for the financial sector, for example, are designed to make it easier for customers to comply with new SEC and international financial rules, while InfoSphere Clinical Analytics for Healthcare Providers lets customers integrate health data from financial, operational and clinical systems to get a better view of patients, improve care and save money by finding efficiencies, according to Bernie Spang, director of product strategy at IBM.

IBM also announced a partnership with SPSS in which the company's statistical analysis capabilities will be embedded in future versions of Cognos BI and performance management software. The goal is to help financial, life sciences and other companies quickly spot and react to trends and anomalies among key products and services, Spang said.

"The motivation is to use all the information available to you to rapidly make better decisions," he said. "By integrating the statistical analytic capabilities within the Cognos software, that analysis is more quickly distributed among those who can take action in the organization."

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IBM is also increasing the ranks of its information management consultants to help customers make the best use of the software to target and solve specific business problems, according to the company.

The new software and services are part of IBM's ongoing IOD initiative, which aims to help companies take a holistic view of information management and make better use of data throughout the organization, according to the company. As part of the initiative, IBM seems to have settled on an industry-specific approach, analysts say.

In September, for example, the company released 18 industry-specific "Information Agenda" guides and in-person workshops, and at its Las Vegas IOD conference in October, it debuted seven corporate performance management software offerings tailored to specific industries built on Cognos-based technology.

Yvonne Genovese, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, said that while none of today's announcements by IBM stands out as noteworthy on its own, the larger message to customers – take a holistic approach to information management – should resonate.

"What they're doing is cutting through the noise of all the analytics capabilities that clients have today … and bringing it together in one place, which is a good thing," Genovese said. "The power is in the overall message, not necessarily with any one tool they're releasing."

IBM's industry-specific approach should also help the company keep prices affordable, as it is generally less expensive than tailoring one-size-fits-all software and services to each individual customer, and makes it easier to target common problems in each industry, Genovese added.

Recognizing that making the best use of the huge and growing data volumes is a top priority for CIOs, competitors SAP and Oracle are also aggressively expanding and sharpening their information management offerings and overall vision. At last month's Sapphire conference, for instance, SAP stressed how its Business Suite and SAP BusinessObjects software can work together to help companies improve clarity and decision-making -- what it calls its "clear enterprise" vision.

IBM may have an advantage over SAP and others in this market, however, thanks to its formidable consulting services, according to Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates, an IT consulting firm in Newton, Mass. "Having a really full consulting arm from a business services and implementation perspective definitely gives them a leg-up," she said.

Gartner's Genovese agreed. "What SAP and Oracle are trying to do is offer packaged technologies in order to solve the problem," she said. "What IBM is saying is packaging can only take you so far. We're going to offer the services around those packages as well."

Other announcements made by IBM today include a new service to help customers transfer paper-based records to electronic formats; the debut of Optim Development Studio, a tool to help developers quickly design and deploy applications across competing database platforms; and enhancements to its data quality suite, called InfoSphere Foundation Tools.

IBM did not reveal pricing information related to today's announcements.

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