IBM touts 'comprehensive' information management to weather stormy economy

At IBM's Information On Demand conference, Big Blue executives said that transforming data into strategic information is more important than ever.

LAS VEGAS -- The IBM Information On Demand conference kicked off this morning with a few laughs, thanks to comedian Martin Short, who opened the show with some impressions and political humor. But the mood turned less jovial when the topic came up of a looming recession and data management's role in causing it and – hopefully – fixing it.

The current economic downturn might have been avoided had financial institutions "better understood the data, the real-time flow of what was happening with all the various financial instruments that have led to the challenges we're currently facing," said Steve Mills, a vice president of IBM's software group.

As it stands now, Mills told some 7,000 attendees, the companies that view information as a strategic asset will be the ones to outmaneuver their competitors and come out of the current crisis the least damaged.

"In these toughest of times," he said, "it's pretty clear that more insight into what's happening around us can be enormously valuable in trying to figure out the world we live in and deal with issues of risk and opportunity."

Not surprisingly, Mills and fellow keynote speaker Ambuj Goyal, IBM's general manager of information management software, believe Big Blue is in the best position to help customers transform mountains of data – both structured and unstructured -- into trusted information and better decision making.

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Since its inception in 2006, IBM has invested billions of dollars in its Information On Demand (IOD) initiative. Rather than focusing on just individual tools – data warehouses or enterprise content management systems, for example – that are often siloed within departments, IBM's ambitious goal is to create a comprehensive platform that brings together multiple technologies and IBM's consulting expertise to let companies manage the complete information lifecycle.

IBM has pursued both acquisitions and internal development to make that vision a reality, according to Mills and Goyal. IBM's IOD portfolio includes homegrown technologies like DB2 and InfoSphere data warehouses and master data management tools, as well as acquired technologies like content management software from FileNet and business intelligence (BI) and data analytics from Cognos.

Add to those even more new IOD-based products that IBM announced today in conjunction with the conference. Among them:

  • Seven corporate performance management software offerings tailored to specific industries and built on Cognos-based technology.
  • Consulting services "to address key information-related business issues" including risk management, customer analytics, data quality and data integration.
  • "Flexible" purchasing options for IBM's InfoSphere portfolio that the company says will let customers "make purchase decisions early with the flexibility to grow, change and adjust their product selection across the portfolio as project needs evolve."
  • InfoSphere Traceability Server technology to help companies comply with federal and international regulations regarding inventory tracking.

IBM's IOD initiative certainly seems to be catching on with customers, with more than 10,000 signing on since 2006, according to the company. Among them is New York City's Health and Human Services department. The department used IBM's IOD strategy to create a one-stop online repository for "a single view of city services from a citizen's perspective," said Kamal Bherwani, the city's Health and Human Services CIO.

Forrester Research's James Kobielus said IBM has done a good job of laying out its case for taking a holistic view of information management, which in turn is helping it fend off competitors such as Oracle.

"This year's IOD is definitely the strongest in terms of the overall theme, in terms of their ability to tie it to some of the critical things going on in the world, like the souring economy and how IBM's information management portfolio – especially like BI and performance management – can help organizations manage in these tough times," Kobielus said.

He warned, however, that IBM risked overwhelming its customers with so many product announcements in such a short period of time. In addition to the numerous products announced today, just last month IBM released a number of other data management tools and services, including 18 industry-specific "Information Agenda" guides and in-person workshops.

"They've got so many announcements and so many initiatives and such a growing product portfolio," Kobielus said, "… it's easy for users, for analysts, for IBM themselves to sort of give short shrift to some of these important announcements."

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