Sunday, 6 December 2009

IBM launches London Analytics Solution Centre

I was invited to Southbank for IBM’s launch of its London-based Analytics Solution Centre – joining six other similar centres across the globe. The morning session included an introduction by Carolyn Taylor, and presentations by Brendan Riley (IBM’s head honcho in the UK), Lord Peter Mandelson (who spoke very well), and Cambridge University’s Professor Andy Neely. After a short Q&A we were shown some very interesting demos.

So what are these Analytics Solution Centres? We were told that the centres will help IBM apply its advanced analytics expertise to the complex business challenges facing its clients. You’re perhaps no clearer after I’ve just given the official answer. So let me try to explain in another way...

They were suggesting that there are lots of little bits of information floating around that could be tied together because this bigger picture would then help organizations make better decisions. An example we saw on video was of traffic flow. How it would theoretically be possible to measure the movement made by people’s mobile phones to measure the actual flow of traffic along busy streets. Using this information, faster alternative routing information could then be sent to, perhaps, the sat navs in the cars. That way, everyone would arrive at their destinations faster.

Another example that was demo’d was about flooding in Galway Bay. Previously, the local harbour master might have decided that a particular combination of rainy weather, winds, and high tides put the town at risk of flooding. Now, sensors in buoys are linked to other information to come up with a much better picture of when flooding might occur. It also links into other systems measuring water quality. And further system links local fish restaurants with local fisherman, who can say what fish they are catching, and the restaurant can put those fish on their menu for that evening!

We also saw the ORX (Operational Riskdata eXchange Association) system – which is used to help members quantify risk exposure. It was something banks needed following the Basel II accord. The banks’ risk information is securely and anonymously exchanged, and the banks are from 18 different countries. The consequence of this initiative is that banks now have a much better understanding of their exposure to potentially damaging operational risk.

Andy Neely stressed the need for getting the organization architecture right. He suggested that getting IT right saw an 8% improvement, and getting the organization right also saw an 8% improvement. However, getting them both right at the same time led to a 34% improvement!

The motto of the presentation, if I might call it that, was “predict and act”. The suggestion was that currently organizations tended to sense something was going on and then respond.

The Analytics Solution Centre in London will comprise around 400 consultants, software specialists, and mathematicians, and will include recent graduates. This number will increase as business increases.

Other Analytics Solution Centres can be found in Berlin, Beijing, Dallas, Tokyo, New York, and Washington DC.

The whole thing looks very exciting and an area destined to grow.

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