"Real-time" showed up at least a couple of times in the release, but just what does it mean? "It means supporting decisions while a salesperson or a customer service rep is on the phone with a customer or while you're processing a claim," says Marc Andrews, program director, data warehousing.At a basic level that requires things like continuous data trickle-feeding and work load management to ensure scalability and optimum query performance, but Andrews says it also means delivering insight in the context of activities and business processes, but more on that in a moment.
IBM also stressed bringing "unstructured information" into the data warehouse mix -- a direction that's central to Big Blue's larger information management strategy. Unstructured information includes everything from text documents and e-mail to Web pages and audio files, but the low-hanging fruit would be note and comment fields - a.k.a. big blobs of text - within databases. CRM and sales force automation systems are loaded with such comments, but CSRs and sales reps can't make sense of all those comments in a hurry while they're still on the phone with a customer.
IBM's OmniFind Analytics Edition is aimed at precisely these types of scenarios. The technology makes sense of text by extracting key terms and concepts with linguistic analysis, sizing up the results with text mining and then presenting the results in a quickly understandable way with data visualization. Most importantly, it does so right there within the application/business process so you don't have to open turn to a separate tool.
During a presentation at this week's summit, Andrews gave the example of a claims app at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. When there's a call about a denied claim, the CSR can pop up a window that instantly shows, in a bar-chart display, that that customer had, say, 41 calls, 75 percent of which were for denied claims with the majority due to submission errors. The CSR would obviously immediately review the details of the submission. Andrews says IBM has put together more than 30 such implementations, and it has essentially productized what it has learned as the OmniFind Analytics Edition.
On the appliance front, IBM introduced a bunch of new data warehousing products, as Antone detailed, but one wrinkle on the small- and midsized-enterprise front is that IBM is not only offering its own hardware-based appliance with Business Objects Crystal Reports (and within months, Crystal Decisions), it's also offering a "software appliance" (isn't that an oxymoron?) that will bundle DB2 Data Warehousing, the Novell SUSE9 operating system and the Crystal Reports Server. This opens up possibilities for resellers with Dell, EMC and other hardware loyalties to come up with data warehouse appliance bundles for the SME market. We'll have more on developments in the appliance market later this month.You might get lost in buzzwords if you read this week's press release on IBM's "Dynamic Warehousing" strategy. For example, "real-time" showed up at least a couple of times in the release. And my brain starts to hurt whenever someone starts using the phrase "unstructured information," as if documents, e-mail and e-mail are just blobs of text. What do these terms really mean?