New IBM tool combines search, BI functions

IBM last week released a tool that combines enterprise search capabilities with business intelligence reporting and analysis functions.

The IBM WebSphere Content Discovery for Business Intelligence tool overcomes traditional limitations of both enterprise search engines and BI tools, said Marc Andrews, IBM's program director for information management strategy.

For example, he noted that search engines don't typically provide direct access to BI data and that BI tools usually can't tap into unstructured data such as Web pages and text-based documents.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. has used the tool in a pilot project to provide access to unstructured data, including notes by call center workers about their interactions with client health care providers.

Before using the tool, the company could not access the unstructured data it needed to combine with structured data in the data warehouse, said Frank Brooks, senior manager of data resource management and chief data architect at Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield.

With the tool, the company can build a single view of its health care provider clients, using both structured and unstructured data, Brooks said.

The single screen holds health care provider claims information, the call center notes and other key data, he said. The combined system helps the insurer negotiate rates with health care providers, he added.

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

The tool also enables the insurance company to crawl external Web sites to find relevant data about health care providers, such as plans to build new facilities, Brooks said.

The company expects to begin using the tool in production next month, according to Brooks.

WebSphere Content Discovery for BI also provides users with ad hoc access to underlying BI data they can search without having to create a report, Andrews said. It also uses natural-language query-processing technology to interpret user needs based on a request for information, he said.

The goal is to enable users "to more easily directly navigate this BI data without having to create reports in advance," Andrews said. The tool is available now.

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