Armed with customer data documenting the value of information integration, IBM is vastly ramping up its efforts to develop Information on Demand products and services. Over the next three years, IBM will invest $1bn to build up this practice.
To draw attention, IBM provided roughly a half dozen examples showing how customers are realizing competitive advantages from getting the right information to the right parties, while the information is still actionable.
For instance, faced by the need to get a jump in the fast-moving consumer electronics market, Panasonic North America has already implemented supply chain integration with its largest retail partners that is shaving weeks of inventory, and millions of dollars in savings. And it is working on master data management initiatives so it can roll out products globally, rather than a region at a time, thereby reducing opportunities for rivals to poach business.
IBM is starting by offering a half dozen packaged services targeting business analysis and discovery; master data management; business process innovation; risk and compliance; knowledge worker productivity; and business performance and process management.
The service offerings leverage a new product, IBM WebSphere Information Server. It blends technology from Hawk, which came as part of last year’s Ascential acquisition, with IBM’s existing WebSphere Information Integration offerings. And it entails increasing the data integration practitioner force by 65% to 25,000 by 2009, backing them with new centers of excellence to build best practices by industry vertical.
In effect, IBM is pushing what used to be called information integration onto the front burner. It estimates that the ultimate market opportunity for information integration could amount to $69 billion by 2009 due to combined impacts of globalization, M&A, regulatory pressures, and the emergence of key enabling technology.
With roots in federated query, the original mission of information integration was to bring data from multiple databases together. Given the lack of standards for exposing data across heterogeneous sources and the difficulty of bridging data silos, information integration has long played second fiddle to systems integration, and in recent years, enterprise application integration and business process integration.
It didn’t help that much of the most critical information has been in emerging in unstructured form, comprising images, blogs, or informal annotations of customer interactions or product characteristics. Furthermore, until recently, it was difficult to aggregate in real time the necessary analytics for making information actionable.
Today, IBM is saying that in many cases, the solution isn’t always reengineering processes, but simply bringing the data together at one place, at a point where it is still actionable.
Of course, that’s not as simple as it seems, because doing so requires that barriers separating technology silos like transaction data, business intelligence and analytics, and content management be bridged. IBM claims that the technology is finally here to accomplish all that.
At the technology core is IBM WebSphere Information Server, a product now in beta at 40 customer sites. Blending together existing WebSphere and new technologies from Ascential, it provides a unified offering that federates and transforms data from multiple sources.
Still a work in progress, IBM WebSphere Information Server harmonizes most of the user interfaces and design time metadata. At this point, the run time metadata, which is critical for execution, won’t be fully unified until a subsequent release.
It provides integration services such as data extract, transformation, and loading (ETL); data cleansing; data profiling to analyze the health, structure, and dependencies of data; and data auditing, which tracks how data is used and by whom.
Of course, technology is only part of the equation. IBM is creating centers of excellence to develop its information on demand practice. On the agenda is development of reference architectures, which spell out the basic technology building blocks; a methodology for prioritizing corporate information needs, prioritizing them according to points of pain; accelerators or jumpstart programs designed to provide early, incremental results; and some pre-built integration solutions.
As part of its engagement, IBM has defined a maturity model containing the usual five steps, which are designed to help organizations benchmark themselves in transforming information from utility for just running the business to competitive asset.
While IBM’s Information on Demand services offerings are available now, WebSphere Information Server won’t be formally released until sometime in Q2.