IBM just getting started with analytics spending spree

LAS VEGAS — IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) isn’t finished adding to the US$12 billion worth of investments it has made to its business analytics and data management stack, according to Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBM’s Information Management group.

Speaking to a group of journalists this week at IBM’s Information On Demand 2009 conference in Las Vegas, Goyal said IBM’s business analytics strategy is “just beginning” to get started. And while he expects feverish competition from other major software vendors, Goyal said many of the analysts he’s talked to give IBM the upper hand in this space.

“Analysts are telling me that we’re light years ahead,” he said.

The IBM business analytics chief also reiterated his stance on the market, telling journalists “information-led transformation is bigger than ERP-led transformation.” He then took this statement a step further, adding that “this is bigger than ERP and CRM combined.”

Last year alone, Big Blue spent over US$6 billion in acquiring companies for its information management division.

While IBM’s roadmap to integrate Ottawa-based business intelligence firm Cognos Inc. has worked out nicely for the company, Goyal deflected questions about IBM’s specific integration plans for newly acquired predictive analytics firm SPSS.

“SPSS already fits in to what we’re doing,” he said, adding that IBM is less focused on integration than it is on innovation.

Goyal said that predictive analytics – which aims to give organizations information they can use to make future business decisions – is only one portion of the company’s “information on demand” stack, estimating that the technology only makes up about 10 per cent of the company’s vast business analytics portfolio.

For one customer at the event, Oshawa, Ont.-based The University of Ontario Institute of Technology, IBM’s investments in the predictive analytics space have been encouraging and more activity in the future will continue to help the school.

Carolyn McGregor, a UOIT associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics, is using IBM InfoSphere’s stream computing technologies to track premature baby data in neonatal intensive care units. The software, which tracks information such as heart rate and respiration, is a key factor to help the school’s researchers discover future patterns in condition of these premature babies.

“There’s enormous potential to be able to have much earlier triggers,” she said, adding that many potential patterns in these critically ill premature babies remain unknown.

“Some research shows a trend that as they become unwell, their heart rate becomes rhythmic,” she said, referring to one pattern already uncovered by the school.

In addition to more work on getting this type of functionality to remote and rural areas around the world, McGregor hopes to see more technology investment in data mining functionality as well.

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