IBM Helps Companies Make Use of Data

IBM (NYSE: IBM) kicked off its Information on Demand Conference today in Berlin, Germany with a flurry of announcements showcasing its ability to reduce costs while helping users put their data to productive use.

The use cases involve technology announced previously, such as BAO and Stream Computing, and Big Blue also announced a new service focused on managing unstructured data.

Companies have information, but aren’t getting out of it what they could, IBM said.

“Enterprises are handling more information than ever before, but are actually using less of that information for strategic insight since it is often difficult to effectively capture and manage,” Ambuj Goyal, IBM’s general manager of information management, said in a statement.

The idea is that better access to information improves the bottom line.

“In today’s economic climate, we’re seeing enormous pressure to reduce costs,” Tom Inman, IBM vice president of information on demand acceleration, told

He added that companies need to maintain their ability to grow and avoid cutting too much. He quoted Goyal as saying that companies need to be “ambidextrous” as they cut costs while simultaneously investing in the future.

So today’s announcement of a new service, the Text Analytics Group, focusing on managing unstructured data, features benefits such as reduced compliance costs. The service works with text in e-mail, call center notes, videos, chat transcripts, and Web pages.

The company uses its initial consulting engagements to create software templates with industry-specific key performance indicators. Templates cover companies in many areas, including finance, health care and the government.

“The days of building it in the lab and hoping to find customers are behind us,” said Inman. Instead, IBM builds its software based on what it learns from customers.

Of course, every customer remains different. “There hardly exists a use case where what we have pre-defined is what they need,” admitted Inman. “The business may have four KPIs and we may have seven other ones.”

The result is a consulting engagement in which IBMs learns more that it can put back into software.

Moët Hennesy USA, the alcohol importer, uses IBM’s Cognos business analytics software to comply with complex state-by-state laws on tax and other issues and are learning which products sell in which areas and even in which restaurants, IBM said.

Reducing paper use

Another use case for the technology is reducing paper use at companies. This speeds transaction rates and also cuts costs. Furthermore, it’s cool.

“When I show my 12 year old daughter some of these things, she begins to think that I work for a pretty cool company,” Inman said.

IBM announced that the State of North Dakota was able to cut the response time to citizen inquiries from days to seconds and also cut costs. For example, before the installation of IBM’s system, it could take employees 24 hours to answer a tax question.

“By moving to a paperless environment, they are able to access the information in seconds, dramatically improving staff productivity and customer service,” IBM said in a statement.

The call center and the accounting system

IBM said that DHL Worldwide, the package delivery company, has installed IBM analytics software in its global call centers and can use the software to analyze more than 30 million customer records in seconds instead of hours while also lowering costs.

The new data allows DHL to track profitability instead of revenue, which is important in the current economy as the company shifts priorities from revenue growth to efficiency, according to a statement from Klaus Baumhauer, controller at DHL Express Germany.

Finance employees download more than 100,000 records every hour and analyze them according to KPIs in less than two minutes, IBM said, replacing a manual process that used to take up to three hours.

Every manager at DHL –- more than 500 people — now have access to monthly reports produced in an accounting system that takes one day to deliver the data, a sharp improvement over the old system that took three employees a full week to complete.

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