IBM Pushes Forward with Its Information On Demand Vision

In an effort to help companies better derive value out of their data, IBM is delivering a host of new products and services that optimize information for businesses.

About a month after Ambuj Goyal stepped into the role of general manager of IBM Information Management in 2005, he articulated a vision of the company's plans at an analyst forum in Boston.

That vision is called Information On Demand, IBM's answer to helping businesses better derive value out of their data. A marriage of master data management, analytics, industry-specific applications and services, IOD has grown into a broad umbrella of solutions designed to optimize information for businesses.

And it just got bigger.

This week, IBM will unveil a host of new products and services during its annual Information On Demand 2008 conference in Las Vegas. Continuing its strategy of focusing on specific verticals, the company is releasing seven new financial management and industry-specific solutions. In addition, IBM is announcing new offerings from IBM Optim as well as the company's Enterprise Content Management and InfoSphere portfolios.

There are also new services on tap. The company is launching Information On Demand Foundation Services, consulting services that draw on technologies from FileNet, InfoSphere and Cognos.

At its core, the premise of IOD is that businesses are moving from what Goyal calls an "application agenda" to an information agenda. In IBM-speak, the application agenda is the traditional focus on utilizing applications to automate business processes. While investments in such applications are likely to continue, IBM banks on the growing emphasis on applications that can help drive businesses' optimization efforts.

"Now [clients are] saying ...-Yeah I did my supply chain, but can I do a better job of partner management so I can optimize it?' That's an information-based agenda. I have done a great job of automating my HR, but can I leverage information to do work force analytics?" Goyal said. "These are things, assets that we have created on top of our Information On Demand stack-structured information, unstructured information, created trusted information out of it so we can do the appropriate analytics and feed it into the right application."

While the past two or three decades have been about automation, the next 10 to 20 years will be all about business optimization, Goyal contended.

Although he wasn't ready to paint the picture in quite those terms, IT analyst Dwight Davis agreed that enterprises increasingly want a clear vision of how technology can be translated into profitability. In the years immediately following the dot-com bubble burst, there was a greater focus on ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership), he said. In recent years, that tactical focus on TCO and ROI has become more sophisticated and extended into the realm of the business value of the technology itself, he explained.

"[IT is] an engine that can be seen as more than just a cost center and can really be a part of a company that drives business value and increases revenue and improves customer satisfaction and makes supply chains more efficient and all those other things that have direct business ramifications," said Davis, an analyst at Ovum.