Hundreds of companies are investing and implementing applications to address fiscal regulations prompted by financial scandals in recent years and, as products mature, the wade pool of choices is becoming less murky.
Over the next year, according to analysts, a second wave of companies will begin investing in IT projects to meet deadlines imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II regulations. With a gaggle of vendors eager to sell their products, choosing the right one depends on several factors, some not so easy to define.
Most companies already possess data management tools in existing software and infrastructure to meet compliance rules, said Paul Hamerman, a senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. But as deadlines to meet the rules loom closer, businesses could reduce a lot of headaches by investing in infrastructure and software to automate processes, he said.
"More and more going forward, companies will find that it's more efficient to use a purpose built type of application specifically designed for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance or other regulations," Hamerman said. "Investing in these types of applications can really help to automate the process and push it out over a network so all the various participants can use the workflow collaborative capabilities of the software."
This year, Oracle released a new version of Internal Controls Manager, a module within its E-Business Suite, to address Sarbanes-Oxley. The application documents and tests internal controls, and it monitors ongoing compliance with federal regulations.
SAP offers mySAP Financials software in its application suite to address the regulations and PeopleSoft offers a similar application. Microsoft partnered with Acton, Mass.-based data auditing software maker, Lumigent Technologies, to provide regulatory compliance software for SQL Server customers.
IBM is the latest of the largest vendors to make an announcement this week, repackaging its hardware and software with existing professional services. The company is rolling out a product grouping it calls a Risk and Compliance Framework.
Unlike Oracle, SAP and other vendors, IBM is offering a complete infrastructure package targeting companies that require data retention, auditing and tracking capabilities, as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley and other fiscal regulations.
"IBM has all the components, so they are repackaging their hardware, software and professional services to meet this anticipated wave of customers," said Mike Schiff, vice president of data warehousing and business intelligence at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.
Company executives are facing a Nov. 15 deadline to meet Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which requires corporations to document and certify business processes, including payroll and accounts receivable. Other deadlines in the regulations loom over the next year.
"These are potential IT projects that if you're the CEO or CFO you're not going to let funding issues get in the way, because they'll want to have financial accountability to meet these regulations," Schiff said.
IBM's announcement this week highlights new packages of storage options in addition to industry specific data management software. IBM's focus is on infrastructure options.
Companies can choose IBM's Power5 processor, which stores up to 56 terabytes of data. The system is managed through IBM's Tivoli Data Storage for Data Retention software.
Big Blue is also offering a TotalStorage tapeline that supports several IBM Virtual Tape Server models for an IBM tape drive for data archiving.
Software packages include the IBM Solution for Compliance in a Regulated Environment, which is aimed at life sciences companies.
IBM Bank Data Warehousing Software is also available and serves as a data repository. Identity management and authentication technology in IBM's eForms and Records Management software for government is also an option for companies.