I recently attended an IBM analyst meeting focused on solutions for the midmarket. What caught my attention was the focus on analytics as an important and growing revenue opportunity for IBM. In fact, IBM mentioned during the meeting that 70 percent of midsized firms are looking for analytics solutions. It is clear from this meeting that IBM wants to bring a comprehensive set of analytical tools to the midsize companies. Unlike some of IBM’s packaging, analytics tools are being packaged specifically for the midmarket so that they can be more consumable and affordable.
Analytics is fast becoming a high priority for companies as a result of the explosion in the variety, velocity, and volume of data with a potential impact on business decision-making. Much of this data is unstructured, such as the text included in customer service records, customer sentiment data in social media, or streams of data from instrumented devices. Making good business decisions often requires analysis across multiple sources and types of data. Companies often have independent systems designed to manage business processes ranging from order/inventory to point of sales, marketing research, and customer relationship management. The challenge for many of these companies is that answering the most urgent questions about the business requires analysis across all of these independent systems. Even a small company with a few hundred employees may have a dozen systems are are disconnected and keep the company from having a full picture of the business.
Therefore, it is not surprising that some midsize companies are finding they can benefit from business analytics solutions. Yet, while some midsize companies are finding ways to get the answers they want using analytics, the word needs to spread to other companies still struggling with manual spreadsheet analysis that doesn’t go deep enough.
IBM is going to market through its business partners that typically support midsize companies with a variety of solutions. These business partners are being asked by their clients in the midmarket to help them implement technology solutions that will enable them to make smarter business decisions. They want to find new ways to deeper their understanding of customer expectations and priorities. For example, a midsize retailer might be trying to figure out why certain products are returned while others sell well. The analytics market offers huge opportunity for IBM and its partners.
The approach IBM is taking with analytics for the mid-market is to offer its partners a pre-configuration of hardware and software into a single system at a price point that is both affordable for midsized companies, but also has enough of a margin to make it attractive to a partner channel.
However, the challenge for partners is to change the traditional way they have gone to market. Many partners that have built successful businesses by specializing in hardware sales or a specific category of software such as IBM Rational find that they need to meet a broader set of client requirements. They now need to both learn the new analytics products and be ready to sell and implement solutions differently. Selling analytics to the mid market requires much more than a technical sell. Partners need to have a thorough understanding of the business context in which the analytics will be used to help customer visualize the potential business value.
One of IBM’s offerings that partners should be looking at is the IBM Smart Analytics System 5710, which is a database appliance for business intelligence and data analytics targeted at the SMB market. The IBM Smart Analytics System 5710 is based on IBM System x, runs Linux, and includes InfoSphere Warehouse Departmental Edition and Cognos 10 Business Intelligence Reporting and Query. The system is designed to enable partners to get their clients up and running very quickly a broad set of analytics and business intelligence capabilities. I expect that you will see a lot more of this type of packaging from IBM with collaboration from its solution business partners.