IBM showcases new analytics capabilities

IBM ramps up business intelligence portfolio during its annual Information on Demand conference

IBM will announce a range of additions to its already-burgeoning portfolio of BI (business intelligence) tools on Monday during its annual Information on Demand (IOD) conference in Las Vegas.

New software for content analysis will help users mine unstructured data, such as a raft of customer e-mails, for insights, said Rob Ashe, general manager of BI and performance management. For example, a restaurant chain could determine which menu items are receiving particularly high praise or scorn, he said.

IBM is also announcing new analytics modules for tracking sales performance, worker recruitment and training, and supply chain management.

In addition, Big Blue plans to showcase a new mining toolkit for InfoSphere Streams, its software for real-time data analysis, and Master Information Hub, an add-on to its InfoSphere Master Data Management server.

Master data refers to data objects that are common to many applications in a company, such as "customer." The Information Hub will allow customers to expand the range and contextual relevance of data in their MDM environments. For example, a consumer products company could relate a list of GPS coordinates to components it purchases.

Overall, the IOD lineup seems to reflect past shows, which were "overstuffed" with a passel of middle-of-the-road announcements, said Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus.

IBM's real trump card -- its recent purchase of predictive analytics vendor SPSS -- should be taking center stage instead, according to Kobielus.

"If they don't play up the SPSS acquisition to the hilt, they'll be doing themselves and customers a disservice," he said.

There is no doubt IBM has big plans for SPSS. It formed a new services arm dedicated to business analytics, staffing it with some 4,000 consultants. A key focus of the organization will be no doubt to push predictive analytics, which focus on determining future events and exploring "what-if" scenarios, versus generating reports from batches of historical data.

Predictive analytics is the next hot area in BI, according to Forrester. In a report published earlier this year, the analyst firm called IBM's SPSS purchase "a tipping point" followed by a wave of similar acquisitions.

SPSS will indeed have a significant profile at IOD, according to Ashe.

The Information on Demand conference continues through Thursday in Las Vegas.

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service/Boston Bureau
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