• November 3, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

IBM Acquires iPhrase Technologies

Big Blue has added another horse to its stable of service and support providers with the acquisition of iPhrase Technologies, announced today. iPhrase, a provider of enterprise search, content management, and Web self-service software, had previously been one of IBM's key technology partners in this area. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. This acquisition brings the number of information software company purchases IBM has made since 2001 to 15, and emphasizes IBM's stated commitment to combine its broad expertise in consulting, servers, data management, and information storage to make information delivery a useful service. "We have been looking to accelerate our ability to give the right information to the right people at the right time, not only structured info in a database, but also the other 85 percent or so that is unstructured," says Theresa O'Neil, director of marketing for content management and discovery at IBM. "We know the people, the processes, and the technology at iPhrase, and they are the right fit for our information portfolio." Customers still will be able to purchase iPhrase software products through IBM sales agents in the near term, with IBM-branded versions rolling out in the first quarter of 2006. This acquisition will strengthen IBM's Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA) platform through iPhrase's enterprise search and content management technology, enabling users to parse data from a variety of sources and bring it together as a usable whole, according to the company. "By incorporating iPhrase's technology, IBM is fueling its effort to help companies deliver their information in context, which ultimately helps consumer and corporate customers make better decisions," Raymond Lau, CTO of iPhrase Technologies, said in a written statement. The potential value of the combined offering, and the UIMA in general, reaches into several aspects of CRM, especially sales, strategy, and service. For example, customers will be able to find and order products about which they have incomplete information, while sales agents will be able to search company notes and records for customer contacts they might not otherwise have known about. Industry analyst Sue Aldrich, senior vice president with the Patricia Seybold Group, sees an opportunity for IBM's platform to capitalize on customer needs and its own strong reputation. "Customers are saying, 'I've bought a lot of one-off solutions in this area, and now I have a balkanized mess. We have to merge and integrate all of it,'" Aldrich says. "Meanwhile, IBM's strategy is to create an enterprise platform so that you'd turn to them to provide certain basic services--in this case, it's content management, enterprise search, and unstructured information." Aldrich notes that these capabilities allow IBM to edge close to providing a market intelligence service for their users, mining the Internet for key phrases and performance indicators to provide an industry snapshot. Aldrich believes that IBM will be able to better exploit iPhrase's competencies this way, and tailor its platform to specific implementations. "While IBM has invested heavily in the linguistic and text mining aspects of this area," Aldrich says, "they probably lack the architectures and approach for specific industry areas. IBM must esteem iPhrase's product." Related articles: Uncovering Business Intelligence: Outlines for Text Mining
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