IBM Snaps Up Another BI Tool Maker
Published: October 25, 2010
by Alex Woodie
IBM last week bought Clarity Systems, a developer of Windows-based business intelligence tools designed to help finance officers comply with regulatory reporting requirements and derive more insight out of their financial systems. It was IBM's 24th acquisition of a BI-related company in the last four years.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Clarity Systems develops two main product lines. Its flagship Clarity7 products help customers derive insight from their data via ad-hoc reporting and visual scorecards and also includes powerful budgeting and financial modeling capabilities. But IBM acquired Clarity primarily for its Clarity FSR ("financial statement reporting") product, which helps companies comply with the reporting requirements of the SEC and other government agencies, including the generation of quarterly reports in extensible business reporting language (XBRL) and support of other formats. Lots of companies are struggling with XBRL. IBM is betting that Clarity's capability to automate XBRL-related tasks will bolster its role in the industry.
Clarity FSR and Clarity7 are developed and customized using Microsoft .NET and run on the Windows Server operating system and its integrated Web server; all user interfaces are Web-based, which simplifies user access and maintenance by the IT staff. Clarity also supports an on-demand deployment model, where the customer doesn't have to buy and run hardware and software.
While Clarity's applications execute within a Windows paradigm, data for Clarity's products can be housed in any number of databases, including SQL Server, Oracle, and DB2 relational database management systems. Clarity touts its hybrid database environment--where some of the data is stored in a RDBMS and some in a multidimensional, or OLAP, databases--as being the best of both worlds. Supported OLAP databases include Oracle's Hyperion Essbase, IBM DB2-OLAP, and Microsoft's SQL Server Analysis Services. A built-in ETL tool sucks in structured data from existing ERP and CRM systems, while unstructured data, such as the stuff living in Excel spreadsheets and PDF documents, is also supported.
Clarity currently has about 600 customers, according to IBM. They are primarily public companies and touch practically every industry, including banking, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and airline transportation. Premiere customers include British Airways, Cost Plus World Market, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Sempra Energy Utilities, and Wyeth.
As of last week, Clarity was functioning as a subsidiary of IBM. But eventually, IBM plans to incorporate Clarity's products and its 400 or so employees into its Business Analytics segment of its converged Systems and Software Group.
IBM says its purchase of Clarity shows how serious it is about business analytics. Over the past four years, IBM says it has invested more than $14 billion in 24 analytics-related acquisitions. The biggest analytics-related acquisition was the 2007 purchase of Cognos for $5 billion, but recent purchases of Netezza, Unica, Coremetrics, Sterling Commerce, and Open Pages, as well as last year's deal for SPSS, also have analytics-related aspects.
Here are some other statistics Big Blue shared about itself. It claims to have 7,000 consultants dedicated to business analytics, and 200 mathematicians devoted exclusively to analytics; the company has been rewarded with 500 analytics patents and has eight "Centers of Excellence" dedicated to analytics around the world.
Clearly, it doesn't take an analyst to tell you that IBM has gone ga-ga for analytics.
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