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IBM unveils new data management software, services

IBM says its new data management software tools and consulting services will help customers turn information into a strategic asset.

IBM this week released a new set of data management software and services as part of its Information on Demand initiative, which aims to help companies make better use of data throughout the organization.

Among the offerings are 18 industry-specific "Information Agenda" guides and in-person workshops designed to address the most common data management-related business processes and challenges in each industry. The industries include banking, consumer products, energy and utilities, federal government, retail, and healthcare.

IBM has also established new consulting services to help companies create information competency centers to build repeatable skills relevant to the entire data or information lifecycle. That contrasts with more specific competency centers that focus on just data integration or business intelligence (BI).

"We have customers that have seen very real success by simply having a BI competency center, and we will continue to [set them up]," said Tom Inman, vice president of Information on Demand Acceleration at IBM. "But many of those customers, we have learned, are really struggling with feeding trusted information into the BI platform. They realize they have to broaden what they're doing around data integration and data quality."

Finally, new "foundational software tools" are designed to bridge the knowledge gap between IT and business professionals, IBM said. The software allows organizations to derive common data definitions and reconcile the often-different vocabularies used by business and IT.

"Sometimes, IT and the business simply speak various languages, and we often have various definitions of information inside the enterprise, like different definitions of product, different definitions of customer," Inman said. "These tools allow clients to understand, design, govern and make better use of data from disparate systems."

According to IBM, the tools will also help spread access to data that previously had been tightly associated with the applications it was designed for -- an increasingly important capability as companies expand through mergers and acquisitions.

Taking a more holistic approach to data management, as IBM's Information on Demand initiative does, is one way to break down data silos created within organizations and create a comprehensive information management strategy, said Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz & Associates in Newton, Mass. It is a step more companies are looking to take, she said, to improve efficiencies and drive the bottom line.

IBM is one of only a handful of vendors that offer a full range of data management software and services, she said, thanks to its size, depth and breadth of experience, and key acquisitions like its purchase of BI vendor Cognos in January.

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"If you look across the acquisitions that IBM has made over the last five or six years, they really are filling in the parts to a full complement of data management offerings," Hurwitz said. "They offer a much more full-circle approach to managing information [than most other vendors can]."

Henry Morris, a senior vice president with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said IBM's data management consulting services, including its new competency center services, are likely to be more popular with customers than its software as CIOs look to improve efficiencies in a weak economy through application consolidation.

"In order to do that, you have to deal with the information layer, which is often the hardest thing to deal with because information might be represented differently in different applications," Morris said. "For companies having this problem, they're looking for external help rather than solving it themselves, which is where IBM's services ... come in."

The new software and services come two weeks after IBM released a new version of its master data management for product information software and added multicultural name-recognition capabilities to its InfoSphere Information Server.

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