First, business analytics.

Next, “big data.”

IBM’s top executive officer Ginny Rometty has made clear in two recent addresses that making sense of all the massive amounts of data being created worldwide every second of every day are her top priorities.

In a speech Thursday night at the Council for Foreign Relations, Rometty labeled “big data” as the “next natural resource.” And IBM wants the business of turning that data – often spread across different networks, in different silos, in so-called “unstructured form” into actionable business.

Businesses are using analytics to track individual employee performance and treat customers based on personal preference, Rometty pointed out. 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.

Much of that work will be done in the “cloud” – where companies house their data. And one of IBM’s newest, biggest such data centers is located in RTP where Big Blue employs some 7,500 people. 

The nearly one-hour address, which the CFR made available online at YouTube, followed up on her remarks at a conference last week in which she stressed “analytics” will be targeted for huge increases in growth.

“Brilliantly Clear,” Raves Forbes

Forbes magazine, which covered the CFR speech, gave Rometty high marks.

“In a brilliantly clear tour de force Ginni Rometty, the first woman leader of global technology giant IBM, raised the consciousness of the business and financial elite gathered at the Council on Foreign Relations tonight about how the dynamic manner of their future billion dollar decisions will be based on the massaging of masses of data that ‘will decide the winners and the losers’ of the future,” wrote Forbes’ Robert Lenzner.

Added Forbes’ Jenna Goudreau: “Rometty predicted that data will be the basis of competitive advantage going forward, calling it the ‘the next natural resource.’ She believes it will change how decisions are made, how value is created and how value is delivered.”

Sara Frier of Bloomberg talked with Rometty after the event, and Frier wrote that the CEO sees big bdata ”as the company’s biggest focus this year,” Bloomberg reported.

“It’s certainly everything around big data and analytics,” Rometty said.

“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.

[IBM ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of IBM stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]