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IBM dives into unstructured data

Big Blue has unveiled new software for SMBs that want to get more out of unstructured information, such as call center notes, e-mails and printed documents.

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Today IBM rolled out a new software offering aimed at reigning in unstructured data for small to midsized businesses. The DB2 Content Manager Standard Edition v8.3 for iSeries is targeted at medical offices, attorneys, retailers, manufacturers and other organizations that have a lot of unstructured data.

Unstructured data, such as lab reports, faxes, e-mails and customer service records, store valuable info for businesses, such as customer complaints or process problems with a company. But that data is often tough to get to and even harder to build reports from.

But not anymore, thanks to software designed to mine textual flotsam for valuable meaning.

Unstructured data is big business. IBM cited that 50% of SMB customers surveyed by analyst firm Forrester Research Inc. are looking to content management software to digitize, store and catalog their data.

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According to Theresa O'Neil, director of content management software at IBM, business practices, such as loan processing -- where a company would need to see a holistic view of information from several sources -- would be a good fit for the software. Or hospitals could use it to collect and store information on patient records from multiple sources.

The software also provides content management for scanned images, providing access to printed media.

According to IBM, many of the targeted customers still rely heavily on paper-based documents. "A lot of small organizations are just making the step from paper to electronic. When you make that transition, you start changing your business processes," O'Neil said.

The content manager features a graphical workflow builder, a tool that allows users to manage document processes, such as document creation, approval and archiving.

O'Neil said organizations often create documents that need to go through several approval processes. The graphical workflow builder will allow companies to track the approval stages.

The DB2 Content Manager Standard Edition v8.3 for iSeries also offers Web services support, automated management of XML documents and XML schema mapping utilities.

O'Neil said the software was specifically designed for the iSeries market, but it is not bundled with any hardware systems. Depending on the situation, the application would be accessible for both existing iSeries machines and new installations. The software is available immediately and pricing starts at $6,900.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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