Analytics software has been as critical to IBM's own internal operations as it has been to the company's customers. Over the last five years, IBM has transformed how it leverages and deploys analytics, moving to a more centralized cloud-based deployment that will help save the company over $25 million.
Meleisa Holek, who is the lead for IBM's Business Analytics Competency Center, explained to Enterprise Apps Today that the Blue Insight effort was first launched in mid-2009, not long after IBM acquired Cognos in 2008.
"IBM really started to look at how we were doing business analytics, and the company was using a lot of different software implementations, with many versions of the truth," Holek said. "So we decided that we wanted to do it better, and we created Blue Insight, which is a private cloud for analytics."
The system includes an onboarding tool that aims to make it easier for IBM users to get onto the system. Holek noted that IBM is still in the process of transitioning to the Blue Insight platform.
"We had a lot of applications that were using third-party software, and we have been working to get them all migrated," Holek said. "There has been a very intense effort to get off Brio, which is now owned by Oracle."
Holek added, "Brio is no longer the majority of analytics apps for us, but it has taken some time."
Benefits of consolidating analytics
Moving to Blue Insights has provided cost savings to IBM by leveraging a centralized cloud-based delivery model. IBM estimates that $25 million will be saved over a five-year period over the legacy system. Much of the cost savings have come by way of moving away from bare metal to a virtualized cloud.
"We definitely see business results and analytics are being used much more prevalently at IBM," Holek said.
The system has also delivered real insights as well. Holek said that one group that has been particularly active is the IBM sales organization. The group did analysis on the SMB market and realized that they weren't using the optimal channel to close deals. So they applied analytics and were able to better target customers and improve close rates.
Analytics best practices
Moving from multiple disparate analytics tools to a centralized analytics system is not an easy task.
"We've learned a lot in the last few years," Holek said. "One of the things we've struggled with is that people must follow best practices, because there is a risk if they don't that they could bring down the system."
It's a situation that has happened, according to Holek.
The Blue Insight organization started with only 12 people to support the system and now is up to 40. The group has learned that it's important to separate the day-to-day operations from the analytics transformation effort that is focused on new development.
Big Data up next
The analytics effort is now moving toward expanding capabilities for Big Data, including IBM's PureData and Big Insights.
"We're expanding and just trying to stay in lock step with what the IBM software groups are doing," Holek said.
All those different analytics systems are not yet tied into a single dashboard or reporting system, though they might be at some point in the future.
"From an end-user standpoint, they don't know when they are using a particular piece of software in the background," Holek said. "We want people to be able to plug in their business problem, and in the background the right software is applied to get the right insight."
"That is the longer term strategy, to have a single entry point dashboard system," Holek added.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Apps Today and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.