IBM is increasing the application integration capability of its content management tools to capture more enterprise customers.

The company Wednesday announced a three-pronged strategy to update the Content Manager portfolio for large customers. This included integration with SAP, Siebel, Notes/Domino and even rival companies like Filemaker.

Content Manager is designed to allow companies to better access and store electronic data. This includes traditional document management objects that have been scanned in to an image like a piece of paper, Web-based content and rich media like video and audio.

Marcel van Hulle, IBM’s vice-president of content management sales, said the company had also improved the product’s search and retrieval features by about 25 per cent, as well as automatic report distribution capabilities.

The integration with other database and content management tools is designed to get IBM into enterprises where companies like Filemaker are already entrenched, van Hulle said. The idea is that over time, customers will standardize on the IBM products.

“We want to be the mother archive for our competitors,” he said, adding that the vast amounts of unstructured data in many organizations demands an enterprise-class product. “They’re not asking for a little departmental solution.”

However, Filemaker spokesman Steve Ruddock said there was plenty of room for more than one player in many customer environments.

“The ends of the spectrum where Filemaker and the IBM systems play are quite different. They’re obviously going after big, enteprise-wide solutions. Filemaker’s solutions in the area of media asset management are very flexible, very rapid to deploy and inexpensive for setting up a workgroup compared to do that with enterprise-level tools.”

Ruddock added that there are a lot of Filemaker installations where Mac OS is still a popular platform, particularly within publishing, which IBM would not sufficiently address.

Van Hulle said worldwide revenue for Content Manager had grown 34 per cent, or three times faster than some of its competitors. In the last four years, Big Blue has invested US$4 billion in data management technologies, one-third of which has gone into content management, and 10,000 customers worldwide. Enterprise content management has been projected to become a US$10 billion market in the next three years by the Meta Group.

Typically IBM works in partnership with firms that specialize in the digitization of unstructured data, like Xenos, which transfer printed structures into something that can be sorted electronically. Key verticals include banks, telcos, utilities and the government, van Hulle said. Prudential Financials, for example, has around 55,000 Notes users, he added. The company generates more than 3GB a day in e-mail message, and the securities and exchange commission (SEC) requirements that it intelligently archive e-mail from the last six years. “The SEC has no sense of humour,” he said. “When it wants something, it has to be able to go right in there.”

While content management strategies focus on improving access to data, van Hulle said customers should be able to see a return on their investment within 18 months, depending on the amount of unstructured data — the towering filing cabinets of paper invoices, for example — in the organization. Ownership of these projects, he added, often moves outside the IT department.

“It’s driven from the top,” van Hulle said. “The No. 1 decision-maker on content management is the CIO, not the CEO. They’ve already got these ERP systems in place, and they’re looking at content management to get more value out of them.”

IBM is planning to dedicate more than 300 sales people and 275 software engineers to content and data management by the end of this year.

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