IBM Bolsters Business Analytics Play with New Acquisitions

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-10-21
 
 
 

IBM Bolsters Business Analytics Play with New Acquisitions


IBM has announced it acquisition of Clarity Systems, a financial governance software provider, and Big Blue also announced the close of OpenPages, a maker of software that helps companies more easily identify and manage risk and compliance activities across the enterprise through a single management system.

Both moves expand IBM's business analytics portfolio to drive financial governance and reduce risk. IBM made both announcements on Oct. 21; however, financial details were not disclosed.

Clarity Systems delivers financial governance software that enables organizations to automate the process of collecting, preparing, certifying and controlling financial statements for electronic filing, in support of mandates by the SEC and other financial regulatory agencies, IBM said in a press release about the acquisition. To significantly reduce the risks of potential error and the lengthy times required to create and file financial documents, Clarity Systems software allows finance professionals to seamlessly integrate information for more efficient planning, consolidation and financial reporting.

The acquisition of Clarity Systems and represents IBM's commitment to address financial governance and risk management challenges faced by financial departments in virtually every industry.

In an interview with eWEEK, Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and group executive for Software & Systems, said IBM now has a comprehensive portfolio of business analytics software for financial professionals to plan, forecast and analyze performance, identify and manage key business risks, and report to external stakeholders with confidence.

"This is part of our overall strategy around business analytics," Mills said. "We have a big franchise around financial reporting and analysis. And OpenPages adds risk and compliance capability. These two areas have a 'peanut butter and jelly' phenomenon."

The addition of Clarity Systems and OpenPages gives the office of the CFO a comprehensive set of solutions for financial performance and strategy management, risk management and compliance, and financial governance.

Finance departments in organizations are relied upon to provide accurate data more quickly, improve risk management and forecasting decisions, and meet financial business goals, IBM said. To address these demands, CFOs and finance managers are increasingly relying on business analytics software to make faster decisions to anticipate performance gaps, prioritize resources, and gain insight into profit and growth.

A recent IBM study of 1,900 global chief financial officers and senior finance leaders revealed enterprises that have adopted standards and increased finance efficiency are performing 25 percent better by strengthening compliance programs and internal controls. The study also indicated that enforcing data standards, integrating information and applying business analytics are key capabilities that enable improved business insight and risk management.

With Clarity Systems, organizations can easily combine financial statements, operational details, commentary, notes, charts and pictures-virtually an unlimited assortment of content-into a single document. By integrating all of these information resources, customers are able to reduce the possibility of errors and late filings, and quickly and easily produce documents for external filing.

IBM said more than 600 global clients across multiple industry segments are using Clarity Systems software to improve business processes and increase efficiency and accountability. In fact, some of the world's largest transportation, financial services, and energy and utility organizations address financial reporting and risk management with Clarity Systems software, including British Airways, WSFS Financial, Young & Co.'s Brewery plc, Five Star Quality Care, Oglethorpe Power and Sempra Energy Utilities.

"Smarter decisions thrive on accurate financial information, and it is therefore imperative that financial governance systems reduce risk of error and provide confidence in the external reporting process," said Rob Ashe, general manager of business analytics at IBM, in a statement. "Clarity Systems extends IBM's business analytics capabilities to the office of finance by enabling organizations to help businesses automate complex governance processes, improve data accuracy and provide the foundation for addressing a wide array of regulatory reporting mandates."

"Clarity Systems' unified approach offers the flexibility, security and control needed to make more informed business decisions while meeting compliance requirements," said Mark Nashman, president and chief technology officer at Clarity Systems, in a statement. "As a part of IBM, we can bring our leading financial governance solution to an established set of customers who need to effectively and efficiently execute the creation and delivery of external regulatory filings."

IBM will integrate Clarity Systems within its Business Analytics software portfolio. In only four years, IBM has invested more than $14 billion in 24 analytics-related acquisitions, dedicated 7,000 consultants and opened eight analytics Centers of Excellence around the world to help clients uncover hidden insights within their data, Mills said.

OpenPages to Give Accurate View of Risks


 

With OpenPages, IBM's approach to risk management will help organizations drive better business outcomes, lower the cost of risk management and compliance activities, better allocate resources, and reduce risk of loss.  When coupled with IBM's services capabilities, systems management, security, information governance and other IT governance capabilities, clients will have an accurate and actionable view of the risks that might otherwise undermine enterprise performance, the company said.

OpenPages further expands the IBM business analytics portfolio with new capabilities supporting integrated risk management solutions and helps businesses establish and maintain a comprehensive compliance and risk management program across a variety of risk domains, including operational risk, financial controls management, IT risk, compliance and internal audits. 

Moreover, since 2006, OpenPages and IBM have successfully partnered to meet clients' compliance and integrated risk management needs, IBM said. OpenPages incorporates IBM Cognos Business Intelligence for enhanced risk intelligence and analytics and IBM hosting services into its offerings to help clients more easily deploy OpenPages software in a secure manner.

Now IBM is building on its existing success with OpenPages by introducing new templates for banking and insurance based on joint work with clients around the world.  These templates extend the capabilities of IBM's Industry Frameworks for Banking and Insurance by providing OpenPages and IBM Cognos software users with proven approaches to improve risk visibility and control, reduce unexpected loss, and improve operating performance. 

The Operational Risk template provides guidelines to help companies identify, manage and report on operational risk. The Regulatory Compliance template consolidates regulatory requirements to help clients create a single governance, risk and compliance system that can adapt as rules change. The templates are available immediately to OpenPages and IBM Cognos clients.

More than 200 clients across a variety of industries are using OpenPages software to help them tackle their information-related challenges and manage risk and compliance issues. These include Allianz, Barclays, Carnival, Duke Energy, TIAA CREF and Williams.

Commenting on the acquisitions, Alan Krans, an analyst with technology Business Research, said:

"IBM will manufacture rewards by managing clients' risk. The acquisition of Clarity Systems announced today is the third IBM acquisition focusing on risk management in the last two months. The acquisition of OpenPages, announced in September, enables users to identify and manage activities subject to regulations and compliance. The acquisition of PSS announced earlier in October brings technology that enable customers to manage and meet legal e-discovery and compliance requirements. Finally, the acquisition of Clarity acquisitions is quite similar to the purchase of PSS, but delivers solutions addressing financial reporting requirements versus the compliance requirements addressed by PSS solutions.

"The common theme across all of these acquisitions is that IBM will play a larger role in addressing the risk customers face meeting compliance, financial and regulatory requirements. The combination of OpenPages, PSS and Clarity provide a 1-2-3 punch for clients to identify, manage and document compliance with regulations, whether compliance or financial related."


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