Tying Information to Strategic Success

IBM is investing in its customers' strategic business initiatives with a plethora of new products announced yesterday at its "Information On Demand" event in New York City. The portfolios include applications for business analysis and discovery, master data management, business process innovation, risk and compliance, work force productivity, and business performance and process management. The company also launched the IBM WebSphere Content Discovery Server, which uses iPhrase technology to let companies interpret online customer inquiries and enhance Web support services. To support the new offerings, the company designed the IBM Information on Demand Center of Excellence to help companies deliver business value through innovative uses of information. IBM will make a $1 billion investment in these initiatives and dedicate 15,000 global practitioners, a number that it committed to increase by 65 percent over the next three years. The announcements were the basis for a discussion on the changing use of information in today's world. "We believe things have shifted and businesses have shifted to real time, and in order to get increased [success] they have to take new approaches to management," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software Group. "Businesses leveraging information as an asset do a better job driving incremental ROI and therefore incremental shareholder value." Companies are overloaded today. Roughly 70 percent of people's time is spent searching for relevant information, according to IBM research. "Data is getting to be very liquid. The explosion of data is going to accelerate, but converting that in a scalable way that provides value, that's the real challenge," said Vasant Dhar, a professor and chairman of information systems at the Stern School of Business, New York University. Information is at the core of three pervasive trends: globalization, integration, and innovation, according to Ginni Rometty, senior vice president of enterprise business services, IBM Business Consulting Services. Globalization is making businesses need to be best-in-class at everything and the need for information "skyrockets" in that kind of situation, she says. As far as integration, there is a huge need to connect processes to each other on an ongoing basis. A 2006 global CFO survey by IBM reveals that organizations that are highly effective at driving information integration across their enterprises are five times more likely to drive value creation than those that are poor at it. Innovation cannot be ignored, either. "We're in a world where you have to grow and maintain costs at the same time. This is not an either/or," Rometty said. The CFO survey also shows that innovation in the company's business model is driving the largest economic value. Information creates business advantages and can change industries if used correctly. The first step is to get and federate data; the next is to work on the governance of information; and the third is to determine the decision points. SOA promises to deliver flexibility and information in real time, but it's only part of the solution, according to David Cearley, research vice president at Gartner. "People overlook information. In 2006, we see looking at information as an asset becoming a new phenomenon," he said. "At the end of the day, information is the lifeblood of the business. It's not a product or an individual project, it's a program that [improves] over time." A recent Gartner study shows that adoption of enterprise information management is in its early stages, with financial services and healthcare leading the way. So how can business advance? "You have to be allowed to grow. Find a way to reveal pain, people are happy. Find cost savings and a way to improve processes, allowing you to get support for these things," Cearley said. Technology exists to propel companies to the next level, the trick is focusing on a vision to make what's possible with technology a reality within an organization. "The accumulative impact of the technology available combined with businesses know-how make it possible for breakthrough solutions," Mills said. "We're at a juncture that's going to drive incremental opportunity beyond what anyone realizes." Related articles: Master Data Management
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