IBM Insight and the Business of Making Businesses Smarter

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 3, 2014

Nearly six years ago, IBM’s then-CEO Sam Palmisano addressed the Council on Foreign Relations and outlined a new company initiative he called “Smarter Planet” which aimed to help nations, organizations and individuals become “more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.”

Palmisano’s plan was decidedly bold – at the time, the U.S. and much of the rest of the world were struggling with the largest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Not too surprisingly, some considered IBM’s plan little more than a frivolous techno-trifle during a time of global crisis. But the continuing evolution and uptake of powerful, increasingly mobile technologies and their overwhelming impact on individuals and organizations proved those attitudes to be shortsighted in the extreme.

Smarter Planet also signaled a shift in strategic emphasis for IBM, its customers and partners and the wider IT marketplace. Its continuing influence was on display this week at IBM Insight 2014, the annual conference hosted by the company’s Big Data and Analytics organizations which have provided both an inspiration and a repository for IBM’s smarter solutions.

While the company’s technologies serve as the foundation for these efforts, its products and services are designed to address business customers’ real world problems. This approach – delivering workable offerings based on visionary technological development has provided extensible value in an IT marketplace crowded with short-lived “solutions.”

Not surprisingly, Insight 2014 served as the launch pad for several notable announcements worth closer consideration:

  • The ability to support the near real time spread of opinions means that social networking technologies have a material Insight on a company’s brand, for better or for worse. There are myriad examples of businesses that are gaining value from social technologies but anyone who spends time on social has seen what can happen when a company gets crosswise with active users. IBM’s new partnership with Twitter aims to help businesses better understand their customers, markets and trends, and improve their decision making processes by applying cloud-based analytics to Twitter data and creating specific industry solutions together. If it succeeds as planned, similar partnerships could become a growth industry.
  • Attacks by cybercriminals seem never ending, with JPMorgan Chase and Home Depot, and their millions of customers just the latest, largest victims. That’s what makes IBM’s new i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis (EIA) intriguing. Based on the company’s Power System platform, i2 EIA is designed to require just seconds to find non-obvious relationships masked within hundreds of terabytes of data and trillions of objects, such as activities exploiting stolen credit card and personal financial data. If i2 EIA delivers what IBM promises, it could deliver remarkable relief for businesses under cyber siege and discomfort for their attackers.
  • IBM has dedicated itself to delivering highly effective, easy to use analytics solutions for industries, organizations and use cases of every sort. That made the Insight 2014 announcement that IBM offerings, including Cognos Business Intelligence, SPSS predictive analytics and the recently announced Watson Analytics platform will be made available via the IBM Cloud services platform especially important. Why? Because it should help companies adopt and benefit from analytics without the significant, up-front investment required by dedicated analytics systems. Plus, the inclusion of solutions designed to accelerate customer, operations, security and fraud, and risk and compliance insights should help businesses effectively explore and determine the value of potential solutions.

Final Analysis

Exactly how any of these new offerings and the Twitter partnership will play out is hard to say at this point. Like analytics itself, most are in early days and will take time to fully grow and mature. But all of them demonstrate how IBM is moving rapidly toward what might be called “intensely personalized” analytics capable of parsing massive amounts of data down to the level of individual transactions and deriving insights from that information.

In turn, that will provide IBM’s enterprise clients considerable and evolving value in terms of what they can learn about customers and the marketplaces they inhabit. Overall, IBM should have little trouble attracting customers and developers looking for ways to heighten the value of their data resources and investments. If the company can deliver on its smarter promises, these technologies and relationships could fundamentally transform IBM and the businesses it serves.

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