SINGAPORE--IBM is bullish about its business analytics future as it sees itself well-positioned to capture both enterprise and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with "workload-specific" analytics offerings that can cater to the needs of a single employee or an entire organization, said executives.
Christopher Dziekan, vice president of business analytics strategy at IBM's software group, said Big Blue has been steadily building its analytics and business intelligence capabilities from the ground up, whether through internal research or acquisitions. This meant expanding beyond its database skill set to include technologies such as Cognos, which was bought in 2007 for US$5 billion and looks specifically into analyzing unstructured data from social media streams, he added.
In town for the company's analytics forum held on Wednesday, the executive told ZDNet Asia in an interview that IBM had spent US$14 billion in acquisitions so far to bolster its analytics capabilities and has earmarked another US$20 billion for the next four years to buy technologies that complement existing ones.
An example of how IBM is packaging the various buys together is by combining Cognos' social media analytics with the predictive capabilities of SPSS to provide reporting and planning tools together with a future-gazing element, Dziekan explained. Going one step further, these features can be customized and preinstalled into its Netezza data appliance, which can then be easily plugged into existing IT infrastructure or introduced "as a preconfigured box" by companies without a big IT team, he said.
Netezza was acquired by Big Blue last September for US$1.7 billion. Company executives had touted the ease of installing Netezza's appliance as a way to quickly get analytics into the hands of department-level units such as sales, product development and human resources.
With the various technologies in its hands, Dziekan is confident the company is well-positioned to dismiss competition from big analytics vendors such as SAP and SAS as well as niche players, which include the likes of QlikTech and open source big data players such as Cloudera.
According to him, the smaller niche players, in particular, might be able to focus on one user group such as IT or line-of-business users but are not able to scale upward.
"Our differentiator is in the 'glide path' approach in which we start from equipping an individual desktop user all the way up to workgroups and across the entire organization," he said.
Remus Lim, country manager of information management software at IBM software group, who was also present for the interview, reiterated Dziekan's point, saying that "no other company" can match its ability to collate and mesh both internal company data with unstructured data culled from various sources.
With this competitive edge in mind, the company estimates its analytics business will reap US$16.2 billion in revenue by 2015, up from US$9 billion in 2009, shared Dziekan.
Opportunities in Asia
Zooming in on Asia, Charles Manuel, business unit executive for business analytics at IBM Asean's software group, revealed that the company is targeting three specific industries: banking and financial sector, government and healthcare, and telecoms.
With regard to the banking sector, he noted that the region has one of the most regulated sectors in the world today and analytic tools offered by IBM take into account the rules already in place.
As for governments, Manuel said Big Blue is approached for its "thought leadership" and know-how in solving "real-life problems". For instance, governments have been asking about solutions for traffic gridlocks and how to better manage their agricultural produce lifecycles through tracking.
When asked how much of the projected US$16.2 billion will come from this region, the executive pointed out that the company does not break down revenue by region. However, he said the Southeast Asian market, for which he is responsible, is likely to have quicker adoption rate for analytics as many companies here need not bother about legacy software such as business process outsourcing (BPO) and enterprise resource planning (ERP).
"We're just now only scratching the surface [in terms of realizing the potential of the analytics market]," Manuel said.