IBM titled its Information on Demand (IOD) 2011 conference in Las Vegas "The Premier Forum for Information and Analytics." IOD featured innovation and a cornucopia of products and services that act a litmus test and checkpoint as to where the IT industry is and where it is going.
One of the problems that any large vendor has at a meeting like IOD is how to intelligibly classify and categorize its potpourri of products and services so attendees "get it." Now, this is not as important for people who are very familiar with and focused on particular products and ignore everything else. However, for someone with a broader perspective--say, an IT architect--trying to fit all the pieces of the categorization puzzle into a coherent whole is important.
At this year’s IOD, IBM focused on three distinct categories that, while they reflect what the company has done historically, also serve as mental reference points: enterprise content management, data management software and data warehousing systems, and InfoSphere. Let’s briefly examine selected highlights from each:
Enterprise Content Management
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has been defined most recently by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM, the worldwide association for ECM) as "the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organization processes. ECM covers the management of information within the entire scope of an enterprise, whether it is in the form of paper documents, electronic files, database print streams or even emails."
That overarching umbrella means that ECM covers record management, document management, digital asset management (DAM), workflow management, and capture and scanning. (And that is just for starters.) Now, no one company today covers every single aspect of ECM, but one would be hard-pressed to identify many aspects where IBM does not have skin in the ECM game (for example, by partnering with companies that do cover a specific aspect of ECM that IBM does not currently focus on). That is important to understand since, with its breadth and depth of products, IBM seems to offer close to one-stop ECM shopping. IBM’s ECM theme at IOD was "unleash the value of content in motion," which emphasized the following aspects:
Document imaging and capture: This is bread and butter to ECM. IBM claims that it offers a complete solution for the entire life cycle of document imaging, capture, content management, workflow, document viewing, and so on through one part number for the complete solution, featuring FileNet and DataCap technologies. The product is Production Imaging Edition (PIE for short) and everyone wants a piece.
Social content management: Through its IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition, IBM stresses a solution to securely manage and gain useful insight from large volumes of unstructured social content. Applying ECM to social content management leverages IBM technologies to take advantage of an area that could have immense potential for many enterprises in gaining insight that improves decision making.
Information life cycle governance: IBM states that new in 2011 is a unified archiving solution that includes value-based archival, disposal and e-discovery features, including new policy management and policy execution capabilities within its IBMAtlas 6.0 product.
Advanced case management: IBM has a new release of its case management product, IBM Case Manager 5.1. Case management is about the coordination of services on behalf of a specific party, such as the facilitation of medical treatment plans. The medical and legal markets are big users of case management. Although business process management (BPM) is part of case management,
it extends well beyond just BPM. Productivity increases are key to advanced case management, but a real benefit is improved outcomes (such as a better health treatment plans).
Content analytics: It should come as no surprise that IBM is beating the drum for the greater use of analytics. What is important, however, is that IBM is trying to make analytics pervasive across its product lines, including ECM. For example, a key new offering is IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare. IBM states that the use of analytics transforms healthcare clinical and operational decisions for improved outcomes through new insights that enable actions that were not previously possible. To do so, the solution is designed to complement and leverage the IBM Watson technology (albeit in a smaller and domain specific package). Note that although some of the values may be traditional, such as increased productivity, the real benefit is improved outcomes, which in some cases may very well be lives that would have otherwise been lost.