IBM unveils new tools to link enterprise search, BI

IBM rolled out a new tool Wednesday that links enterprise search capabilities to traditional business intelligence (BI) reporting and analysis of data in databases.

The IBM WebSphere Content Discovery for Business Intelligence tool is designed to bridge the traditional limitations of both enterprise search and BI tools, according to IBM. While enterprise search tools typically do not provide direct access to BI data, BI tools usually cannot tap into unstructured data like Web pages and text-based documents -- including call center notes, warranty claims and product sheets, said Marc Andrews, IBM's program director information management strategy.

"Typically, a user doesn't want to go to two different environments to find the unstructured documents and the BI information," he said. "We've created this looped process where you can go back and forth between using unstructured information to create new reports ... and being able to search on those reports you have created."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee has used the tool in a pilot project to access unstructured data in call center workers' notes about the company's interaction with health care providers like hospitals. The tool also allows the insurance company to crawl external Web sites to find relevant data about providers, such as plans to build new facilities, said Frank Brooks, senior manager of data resource management and chief data architect at the Chattanooga-based company. The unstructured information then is combined with structured data from relational databases to build a single view of the provider Blue Cross uses when negotiating rates with the provider, he said.

Before using the tool, the company was unable to access the unstructured text comments.

"We were able to pull comments about a provider ... and derive structured data from it," Brooks said. "Then we could analyze what kind of customer service calls people are taking using our existing Cognos business intelligence tools. For the first time we were able to analyze the service call patterns related to providers."

The company plans to begin using the tool in production in June to create a provider data warehouse, according to Brooks.

Finally, the new tool is designed to allow users ad hoc access to underlying BI data they can search without having to create a report. IBM uses natural language query processing technology to interpret what a user needs based on the request for information, Andrews said.

"It is enabling users to more easily directly navigate this BI data without having to create reports in advance," he said. "It opens up the value of BI to a much broader set of users and allows them to benefit from the knowledge being captured in data warehouses and data marts."

The new tool is available now.

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