IBM CEO Says ‘Big Data’ Is Company’s Top Priority This Year

International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty sees “big data” services, which let customers mine vast troves of information to make better decisions, as the company’s biggest focus this year.

“It’s certainly everything around big data and analytics,” Rometty said in a brief interview last night when asked about IBM’s priority in 2013. She had just given a speech in front of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where she emphasized that data will give companies and governments a competitive advantage.

“I want you to think about data as the next natural resource,” she told the audience of business and political leaders. Data-based insight helped reduce crime by 30 percent in Memphis, Tennessee, and correctly predicted the outcome of swing states for President Barack Obama’s campaign, she said.

For IBM, the capabilities are helping it break into new overseas markets and sell services covering a wider range of tasks -- from traffic management to weather monitoring to payroll. About 80 percent of growth is coming from outside the U.S., she said.

IBM increased its 2015 sales forecast for data analytics to $20 billion last week, from an earlier goal of $16 billion. Revenue from the category in 2010, when IBM first set he goal, was about $10 billion. Since 2005, IBM has spent more than $16 billion on 35 acquisitions to boost its analytics capabilities.

Shares of the Armonk, New York-based company climbed 0.5 percent to $210.38 at the close in New York. The stock has risen 9.8 percent this year.

Monitoring Workers

Businesses are using analytics to track individual employee performance and treat customers based on personal preference, she said. That means they don’t have to make as many blanket assumptions.

“You will see the death of the average,” Rometty said.

Analytics also will help companies fight the mounting threat of cybercrime by predicting where the next attack might happen, Rometty said. She called on countries to work together on a data-based strategy, instead of individual legal approaches.

“If every country tries to regulate this themselves, you will have a standstill and a great vulnerability,” she said.

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