When IBM puts on a conference you can count on it to be well organized and informative.  Information On Demand (IOD) 2009 is following the classic IBM formula perfectly.  My only disappointment has been the lack of any dramatic news or the introduction of major new concepts.  Most of what I have heard so far is a repeat of the messages and jargon from last year. 

IBM always aspires to provide thought leadership and in the area of information management it continues to try harder than its competitors including Oracle.  IBM tells a more complete and compelling story than any other vendor.  The products and services which support the story are always sound but are not always at the leading edge. 

The IBM story line starts with the assertion that its mission is to help create a smarter planet – one that is more efficient, that better uses and conserves resource, and that is sustainable for generations to come.  Who could argue with such lofty goals?  The story goes on to point out that the world is becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.  This refers to the explosive growth in sensors, meters and other sources of data that in turn are increasingly connected to the internet and that frequently have a great deal of local processing capability. 

The vast and growing number of data sources and local intelligence is increasingly being used to monitor and influence events as they occur.  The real time data being generated is increasingly being combined with historical data to form powerful data warehouses.  Data modeling and analysis tools then come into play to turn the mountains of data into understandable information which can lead to more informed decisions.  Over time those decisions become the foundation for improved business process. 

IBM calls this chain of events “information-led transformation”.  Its philosophy is that organizations need to first plan an information agenda, build a technological platform to collect and organize all the data, and then use tools like its own Cognos and SPSS products to facilitate the analysis and decision-making. 

IBM is so convinced that information-led transformation is a “next big thing” that it has set up a new business unit within its services unit staffed with 4,000 consultants.  It should be no surprise that most of the success stories offered so far in support of these ideas are among very large organizations or ones in highly data intensive industries. 

We agree broadly with the IBM view of the way in which information technology will shift its focus from operational applications to more data analysis intensive uses.  These grand ideas will have increasing appeal to the JD Edwards community over time when it becomes ever easier to put them into practice quickly and at a reasonable cost.  Future postings will continue to report on what IBM, Oracle and many vendors are doing to make the vision IBM has done a nice job of articulating into concrete solutions that can be installed and put to use.