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BI in Action

Michael Dortch

IBM, SeeWhy (or Why Not), Business Intelligence, and the Cloud - Some Shafts of Light

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As my sainted mother used to say, "where you stand often depends on where you sit."

So IBM announced its Business Analytics and Optimization Services consulting practice this week. A mere two days after said announcement, I get an e-mail pointing me at a blog entry from Charles Nicholls, founder and CEO of SeeWhy Software, a company focused on real-time business intelligence and analytics to combat Web site abandonment and increase conversion of site visitors to buyers.

Mr. Nicholls takes IBM to task for ignoring the Web. "The web [sic] is the world's single largest source of real time data [sic] and where all the action is today in optimizing decisions in real time. This is where the real heavy lifting in data terms needs to take place," Mr. Nicholls said. He then trotted out that hoary old aphorism about how nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM, but "they probably didn't get promoted either!"


First of all, to accuse IBM of "ignoring the Web," after all the company's announced and delivered regarding cloud computing, seems just a bit...mis-focused. If not disingenuous. And/or perhaps just a tiny bit self-serving. Or merely intentionally in IBM's face about an announcement that by all rights should have mentioned the Web prominently and repeatedly. (I have frequently taken IBM to task myself during analyst briefings and after announcements, for acting as if other relevant parts of the company didn't exist. Maybe it's the lot of a large, multi-faceted company. Whatever.)

But here's the thing that makes the intent of Mr. Nicholls' blog entry more confusing and perhaps suspect. On April 15, the day before I got the e-mail touting the blog, eWEEK ran an article headlined "IBM Building Analytics Clouds." I quote below from said article, written by long-time and superior reporter Darryl K. Taft.

"At the launch of the IBM Business Analytics and Optimization Services consulting practice [in Hawthorne, NY] on April 14, Robert JT Morris, IBM's vice president of services research, told eWEEK, 'At the infrastructure level, the pooling of data enabled by the cloud enables us to make different decisions, and in some cases we're starting to build analytics clouds.'"

Now, I'm sure some of those clouds are run entirely on private networking facilities, avoiding the Internet and the Web entirely. But I'm equally certain some of them are not, and that more of them will be hybrids of public and private connections.

IBM may not always be the most agile and savvy innovator on the planet, as Mr. Nicholls rightly points out. But they ain't stupid, either. I think BI, and its related areas ranging from information management to service-oriented architectures (SOAs), are high points of focus at IBM, as are the Internet, the Web, and public, private, and hybrid clouds. And I think anyone who says otherwise risks being perceived as having their own agenda not necessarily highly aligned with the challenges facing users trying to make sense of it all.

And that's why we're all paying any attention at all to this stuff in the first place. Right?

1 Comment

Hi Michael

Of course I welcome IBM’s interest in the area, and you have to respect their size and track record. I certainly wasn’t trying to diminish what IBM have done with BI in the cloud, but my point was more about web data (rather than merely hosting data in the cloud). In most businesses today there are two distinct worlds: that of ‘traditional’ data analytics and that of web analytics. We all learned with data warehousing the often the most interesting analysis lies at the intersection of different data sources. Combining data from the front office for the first time with back office data led to new insights.

The same is true today when you combine data from the web world with ‘traditional’ transactional data. My point was simple: this intersection represents a significant opportunity which is at the cutting edge of BI. The ability to act upon these insights in automated decision making is all the easier because of the nature of websites and ecommerce.

The closed loop nature of many of these applications, particularly in the area of website conversion, creates a self-optimizing system which provides lift way beyond what can be achieved using in traditional techniques. Look at behavioral targeting in advertising as a case in point. Its impact is far and wide and touches us in our every day lives, for the better in making the internet more relevant to us, even though we may be unaware of it.

It’s also this next generation, closed loop area of BI where there are significant potential returns for many businesses, and a source of, dare I say it, competitive advantage. Perhaps that’s out of fashion in this cost cutting world.

Maybe I’m too focused on this opportunity because of my involvement with SeeWhy, in which case I hope you understand my myopia!

Globalization, shrinking business cycles, and increasing competitive pressures are placing demands on business managers to make faster and better decisions. Managers require both real-time visibility into their business operations and sophisticated analytical tools to help them navigate the increasingly fast paced and complex business environment.

Michael Dortch

Michael Dortch is a veteran information entrepreneur and information technology (IT) industry analyst, consultant, speaker, writer, evangelist and provocateur. He has been striving to empower buyers, sellers and users of IT solutions since 1979. Seriously! ;-)

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

Madan Sheina

Madan Sheina is principal analyst within Ovum's Software Applications group and is based in Northern California.

Madan has fifteen years' experience working in the IT industry both as an analyst and a journalist. His research covers a range of information management technologies, with a sharp focus on business intelligence, knowledge management and data integration software.

Madan is well respected in the IT industry for his clear, incisive and no-nonsense analysis style. He has advised leading ISVs on market positioning and product development strategy, IT users on product evaluation and selection, and the financial investment community on technology trends. View more


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