IBM makes $30 million biz intelligence push

IBM yesterday announced a $US30 million marketing campaign aimed to get business intelligence systems at the top of customers' IT agendas in 2000. It also launched new versions of business intelligence products along with a special program targeted at small and midsize businesses.

IBM is targeting mostly vice presidents within marketing and sales organisations, by focusing especially on the use of the technology for winning and retaining customers, Ben Barnes, general manager of Global Business Intelligence Solutions, said yesterday.

Business intelligence systems are intended to help users get the most out of a company's various sources of data including important external data. The technology, which is often employed on top of a company's data warehouse or data marts, uses data mining software. Mining vast amounts of data reveals things such as customers' buying patterns, thereby enabling focused one-to-one marketing, for example.

According to Barnes, businesses within finance, insurance and retailing will receive special attention.

So far business intelligence systems are predominantly employed by rather large companies, but IBM hopes to get small and midsize businesses on board by offering a package with hardware, software and services for $60,000 and up.

The package, dubbed Fast Start, should get the customer up and running in six to 12 weeks, according to Janet Perna, general manager of Data Management at IBM Software Solutions.

The announced software products, centered around IBM's DB2 Universal Database, include the following:

-- DB2 Intelligent Miner for Data Version 6.1. allows customers to extract information from large amounts of enterprise data including e-commerce data. A new visualisation technology should increase the software's ease of use and make it unnecessary to have "mathematicians" interpret the findings, according to Perna.

- DB2 Intelligent Miner for Relationship Marketing Version 6.1 includes a suit of Web-enabled applications that focus on customer behavior.

- DB2 DataJoiner Version 2.1.1 now provides access to NCR's Teradata database. NCR is a major IBM competitor in large-scale data warehousing and business intelligence, and customers have asked for easier access to Teradata, Perna said. DataJoiner now supports 55 types of databases.

The DB2 OLAP Server Version 1.1, an online analytical processing system that shipped in July, was also mentioned as part of the initiative.

Perna also discussed a standards initiative concerning data warehouses. IBM, Hyperion Solutions, NCR, Oracle and Unisys have just submitted a common warehouse metadata interchange specification to the Object Management Group, an industry standards setting organisation.

Metadata is information that describes the various types of data contained in the warehouse. The proposed standard contains APIs (application programming interfaces) based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) for systems that exchange data in an warehouse environment.

"We have actually made a toolkit available on the Web, so that customers and vendors can begin working with the standard," Perna said.

IBM's efforts to broaden the use of business intelligence is actively supported by several business units. IBM Global Services, for example, is ready with special offers to help customers get started and go further with the technology, Barnes said. IBM will also supply financing on special terms.

Today IBM has a 20-percent market share of the global business intelligence market, said Barnes, referring to numbers published by World Research in June 1999. According to Barnes, research companies predict a growth rate in the high double digits for the business intelligence market.

The $30-million campaign will run in the fourth quarter in newspapers, technical papers, TV, radio and on the Web. Furthermore, IBM will send a quarter of a million direct mail letters offering a free customer survey, followed by a confidential report that includes IBM's recommendations, Barnes said.

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