The fact that IBM has just announced that it is opening a new analytics center in Columbus, Ohio is interesting in its own right -- the fact that this is the second such center in a month points to a strategy that should put IBM as the top dog in the analytics space within the time it takes one group of students to graduate.

IBM invests in Nova Scotia, Ohio

The first project, announced in Nova Scotia, Canada earlier this month, involves a massive regional investment, a new analytics center and a partnership with the 13 campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College.

The deal with Ohio is similar -- IBM’s reasoning behind it is also similar. The new center will focus on advanced research into analytics, client services, big data, cognitive computing and education.

While computing focus will result in the creation of 500 analytics jobs over the next three years -- as well as result in a massive economic spin-off for the region -- the key element here is education.

Leaving aside the fact that there is a substantial market for analytics products in the region -- Ohio is home to 27 Fortune 500 and 57 Fortune 1,000 companies. It also has strong third-level education system through the Ohio State University -- providing IBM with a substantial feed for its analytics education program.

Just like it is doing in Nova Scotia, IBM is also tied up with Ohio State to provide graduate and undergraduate programs in analytics -- which in turn should feed into IBM’s wider, smarter planet strategy.

Data is a powerful natural resource that, if used wisely, can drive U.S. economic competitiveness and lead to rewarding careers in the future dedicated to building a smarter planet,” said Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Software Solutions Group.

Analytics Skills Gap

Patriotic sentiment aside, the key is to ensure that there are enough people with analytics skills to run its Smarter Planet Program. The principal mission of the center will be to deliver new innovations and advance skills through the design, development and support of advanced analytics solutions in emerging market areas.

This envisages a world of clients using advanced computer systems -- like Watson -- and the skills to pull actionable insights from information generated through social business networks.

But why the education? Going back to the The State of Customer Analytics 2012 report published by Forrester in August, we saw that one of the major problems facing customer analytics is skills shortages.

The report showed that 42% of organizations surveyed cited human resources issues as their biggest problem -- with 37% saying that they were having considerable difficulty transmitting findings to key stakeholders. And this is where Ohio, Nova Scotia and whatever other centers IBM creates in the future, will come into play.

The center will also be connected to 200 IBM client centers globally and IBM's network of eight Analytics Solution Centers.

Where IBM goes with this in the future is not clear, but given the similarities between the Nova Scotia and Ohio investment, Big Blue appears to have a ready-to-use template.