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Analytic and collaborative approaches are providing the edge in a hyper-competitive world, two new studies show

Two studies just released by IBM point to greater adoption of business intelligence and collaborative applications as paving the way to smarter businesses.

For one, IBM just released a new global study of more than 2,500 chief information officers that finds that leveraging analytics to gain a competitive advantage and improve business decision-making is now their top priority. More than four out of five (83 percent) respondents identified business intelligence and analytics – the ability to see patterns in vast amounts of data and extract actionable insights – as the way they will enhance their organizations’ competitiveness.

These results and other insights are detailed in IBM's just-released Global CIO Study 2009. With an increased focus on data analytics, the survey also revealed that data reliability and security have emerged as increasingly urgent concerns, with 71 percent of CIOs planning to make additional investments in risk management and compliance.

The survey also found that CIOs also focused on green IT, and are continuing on the path to lower energy costs, with 76 percent undergoing or planning virtualization projects. The same percentage of CIOs anticipate building a strongly centralized infrastructure in the next five years. Furthermore, more than half of CIOs are expecting to implement completely standardized, low-cost business processes.

Another new survey from IBM (part of the company's "Smart Work" announcement) points to the need for greater collaboration and empowered decision making -- enabled by technology -- to help organizations see greater success in the months and years ahead. The study of 176 business and IT leaders that explored smarter ways of working,  and address three critical challenges faced by business leaders around the world: 1) Making business processes more responsive and easier to change, 2) Improving collaboration within and beyond their organizations; and 3) Using technology to meet business needs quickly.

In the survey, respondents agree that empowering line of business users to make changes to business processes is the single most important priority. Furthermore, companies that are the most adaptive and responsive to change leverage mobile and wireless technologies for enhanced collaboration, make rapid changes to business processes in response to changing market conditions, and are efficient at locating the right information to make better decisions. IBM's survey also shows that 70 percent of CIO's say that optimizing processes are a top priority, and nearly three-quarters cite customer and partner collaboration as key.

The survey estimates that an  average of 5.3 hours per employee per week is wasted because of inefficient processes, and two-thirds of employees believe there are colleagues who can help them do their jobs better, but don't know how to find them.  Clearly a call for greater collaboration and ability to access resources, wherever on the globe they may be.

I like the way Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former senior vice president of IBM, summarized the forces that are making the world a "Smarter Planet," which ties a lot of these ideas with technology:

"The reason it is now possible to talk seriously about making the planet smarter is that the digital and physical infrastructures of the world are converging.  Just about everything can be instrumented.  Moreover,  because the world is becoming increasingly interconnected, these instrumented things can now interact with each other, much as they do in the physical world.

We can therefore now measure entire ecosystems - whole supply chains, business processes, cities, healthcare networks, even natural systems like forests and rivers, as well as gather huge amounts of real-time information about the state of these systems.  We can then make all of their components and processes much more intelligent by turning these mountains of information into real insights through sophisticated analysis, which we can then use to optimize the overall system. This kind of information-based intelligence will help us make companies, industries, organizations and economies more efficient, productive and responsive."

IBM says that as part of its "Smart Work" initiative, it will be hosting a Smart Work "Jam" September 16-18 to externalize the dialogue and share ideas about Smart Work for a Smarter Planet. The Jam will include participation by James Surowiecki, business strategist and author of The Wisdom of the Crowds. Preceding the Jam will be a Smart Work videocast on Sept. 16.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure