IBM services to help build competency centres

LAS VEGAS – As part of its Information on Demand (IOD) strategy launched nearly three years ago, IBM Corp. on Monday announced new software and services it said will help businesses better leverage their information, including best practices around building in-house competency centres, to consistently make improved business decisions in real time.

The idea is that these latest releases will allow businesses to create an information agenda specific to their industry, and reap better business outcomes. IBM is focused on the “business outcome, not just the tools,” Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBM’s information management software group, told the audience at the opening keynote of the company’s IOD conference.

But, he continued, it’s not even solely about better business outcomes, rather better and consistent client success as a result of having an information agenda to leverage business value of the data. “This is how the IT industry in the future will deliver new value,” said Goyal.

“It’s not just a set of business products,” said Goyal referring to IBM’s lines of business, “it’s a strategy in play.”

Among the announcements are new IOD competency centre services including consulting services focused on analytics software so businesses can design, implement and operate a competency centre, whether a physical or virtual team. IBM first announced services for competency centres last month.

Specifically, the new services include four from IBM’s Global Business Services group that aim to address information-related business issues including enterprise risk management, customer analytics, data quality and integration, operational intelligence and performance management.

Also, announcements include those from IBM’s Global Technology Services to help organizations implement an information agenda while ensuring their infrastructure can handle workload increases. For instance, the new IBM Archive Reference Architecture is meant to help build an archive environment that meets corporate information management requirements, and meet cost-efficient and predictable scalability demands.

A new service also centred on the company’s InfoSphere Foundation tools, including Flex, so customers, while building that information agenda, can better plan and flexibly adjust their product selections and make purchase decisions early.

And, the new IBM InfoSphere Traceability Server lets organizations comply with emerging standards and intelligently track issues like counterfeiting, diversion of valuable items and enhancing product availability in retail stores.

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Boris Evelson, principal analyst for business intelligence at Forrester Research Inc., said he gives IBM plenty of credit for their competency centre services because business intelligence is more about best practices than it is about technology.

Many companies like IBM, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. understand business intelligence, said Evelson, and technology offerings have definitely caught up in recent years, but the “the real difference between one vendor and another is vertical specialization, competencies, accumulation of best practices.”

As for IBM, Evelson said, Cognos acquisition aside, the company is the only large BI vendor that acquired a management consultancy a few years ago, that being Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

“That gives them much better edge over anybody else,” he said.

“When you do BI, you make thousands of mistakes. The only way to avoid that is to work with someone who knows of those mistakes,” said Evelson.

Evelson noted that competency centres don’t drive an understanding that business intelligence is vital to an organization’s success. Rather, it’s the other way around: company CEOs who already embrace this will recognize the need for competency centres.

In the area of performance management, IBM said it has integrated expertise garnered from its business intelligence vendor Cognos acquisition with the announcement of seven industry-specific and financial management offerings for the areas of finance, pharmaceuticals, internal controls, sales and operations planning, municipal scorecarding and business reporting.

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