Another market singled out for rapid expansion is the business of helping companies mine data for useful information such as using Web traffic and social-network postings to guide marketing, sales, manufacturing and purchasing decisions. The software for mining vast data troves is called business intelligence or analytics software. In the last five years, I.B.M. has spent $14 billion acquiring 25 specialist companies in analytics. The company’s analytics unit now employs 8,000 consultants and 200 mathematicians.
“The biggest change facing corporations is the explosion of data,” said David Grossman, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “The best business is in helping customers analyze and manage all that data, and I.B.M. is making a big push there.” In a conference call, Mark Loughridge, the chief financial officer, described Watson, I.B.M.’s Jeopardy-playing supercomputer, as a triumph of the company’s skills in analytics. In February, Watson beat two human Jeopardy champions. “We didn’t invest just to play Jeopardy,” he said. “We invested to provide leadership applications for our clients.” I.B.M. said its analytics business grew 20 percent in the quarter. The 2015 goal for that business is $16 billion.