Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Year: 2012 (Page 1 of 7)

Enterprise Search Strategies: Cultivating High Value Domains

At the recent Gilbane Boston Conference I was happy to hear many remarks positioning and defining “Big Data” and the variety of comments. Like so much in the marketing sphere of high tech, answers begin with technology vendors but get refined and parsed by analysts and consultants, who need to set clear expectations about the actual problem domain. It’s a good thing that we have humans to do that defining because even the most advanced semantics would be hard pressed to give you a single useful answer.

I heard Sue Feldman of IDC give a pretty good “working definition” of big data at the Enterprise Search Summit in May, 2012. To paraphrase is was:

  • > 100 TB up to petabytes, OR
  • > 60% growth a year of unstructured and unpredictable content, OR
  • Ultra high streaming content

But we then get into debates about differentiating data from unstructured content when using a phrase like “big data” and applying it to unstructured content, which knowledge strategists like me tend to put into a category of packaged information. But never mind, technology solution providers will continue to come up with catchy buzz phrases to codify the problem they are solving, whether it makes semantic sense or not.

What does this have to do with enterprise search? In short, “findability” is an increasingly heavy lift due to the size and number of content repositories. We want to define quality findability as optimal relevance and recall.

A search technology era ago, publishers, libraries, content management solution providers were focused on human curation of non-database content, and applying controlled vocabulary categories derived from decades of human managed terminology lists. Automated search provided highly structured access interfaces to what we now call unstructured content. Once this model was supplanted by full text retrieval, and new content originated in electronic formats, the proportion of human categorized content to un-categorized content ballooned.

Hundreds of models for automatic categorization have been rolled out to try to stay ahead of the electronic onslaught. The ones that succeed do so mostly because of continued human intervention at some point in the process of making content available to be searched. From human invented search algorithms, to terminology structuring and mapping (taxonomies, thesauri, ontologies, grammar rule bases, etc.), to hybrid machine-human indexing processes, institutions seek ways to find, extract, and deliver value from mountains of content.

This brings me to a pervasive theme from the conferences I have attended this year, the synergies among text mining, text analytics, extractor/transformer/loader (ETL), and search technologies. These are being sought, employed and applied to specific findability issues in select content domains. It appears that the best results are delivered only when these criteria are first met:

  • The business need is well defined, refined and narrowed to a manageable scope. Narrowing scope of information initiatives is the only way to understand results, and gain real insights into what technologies work and don’t work.
  • The domain of content that has high value content is carefully selected. I have long maintained that a significant issue is the amount of redundant information that we pile up across every repository. By demanding that our search tools crawl and index all of it, we are placing an unrealistic burden on search technologies to rank relevance and importance.
  • Apply pre-processing solutions such as text-mining and text analytics to ferret out primary source content and eliminate re-packaged variations that lack added value.
  • Apply pre-processing solutions such as ETL with text mining to assist with content enhancement, by applying consistent metadata that does not have a high semantic threshold but will suffice to answer a large percentage of non-topical inquiries. An example would be to find the “paper” that “Jerry Howe” presented to the “AMA” last year.

Business managers together with IT need to focus on eliminating redundancy by utilizing automation tools to enhance unique and high-value content with consistent metadata, thus creating solutions for special audiences needing information to solve specific business problems. By doing this we save the searcher the most time, while delivering the best answers to make the right business decisions and innovative advances. We need to stop thinking of enterprise search as a “big data,” single engine effort and instead parse it into “right data” solutions for each need.

HTML5 Definition Complete, W3C Moves to Interoperability Testing and Performance

HTML5_Logo_128The W3C announced today that the HTML5 definition is complete, and on schedule to be finalized in 2014. This is excellent news for the future of the open Web, that is, all of us. If you were involved in discussions about mobile development strategies at our recent conference you’ll want to check out all the details at http://dev.w3.org/html5/decision-policy/html5-2014-plan.

Moving right along, the HTML Working Group also published the first draft of HTML 5.1 so you can see a little further down the road for planning purposes. See http://www.w3.org/TR/2012/WD-html51-20121217/.

From the W3C newsletter…

W3C published today the complete definition of the “HTML5” and “Canvas 2D” specifications. Though not yet W3C standards, these specifications are now feature complete, meaning businesses and developers have a stable target for implementation and planning. “As of today, businesses know what they can rely on for HTML5 in the coming years, and what their customers will demand,” said Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO. HTML5 is the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities; video and animations; graphics; style, typography, and other tools for digital publishing; extensive network capabilities; and more.

To reduce browser fragmentation and extend implementations to the full range of tools that consume and produce HTML, W3C now embarks on the stage of W3C standardization devoted to interoperability and testing. W3C is on schedule to finalize the HTML5 standard in 2014. In parallel, the W3C community will continue its work on next generation HTML features, including extensions to complement built-in HTML5 accessibility, responsive images, and adaptive streaming.

Integrating External Data & Enhancing Your Prospects

Most companies with IT account teams and account selling strategies have a database in a CRM system and the company records in that database generally have a wide range of data elements and varying degrees of completeness. Beyond the basic demographic information, some records are more complete than others with regard to providing information that can tell the account team more about the drivers of sales potential. In some cases, this additional data may have been collected by internal staff, in other cases, it may be the result of purchased data from organizations like Harte-Hanks, RainKing, HG Data or any number of custom resources/projects.

There are some other data elements that can be added to your database from freely available resources. These data elements can enhance the company records by showing which companies will provide better opportunities. One simple example we use in The Global 5000 database is the number of employees that have a LinkedIn profile. This may be an indicator that companies with a high percentage of social media users are more likely to purchase or use certain online services. That data is free to use. Obviously, that indicator does not work for every organization and each company needs to test the data correlation between customers and the attributes, environment or product usage.

Other free and interesting data can be found in government filings. For example, any firm with benefit and 401k plans must file federal funds and that filing data is available from the US government. A quick scan of the web site data.gov  shows a number of options and data sets available for download and integration into your prospect database. The National Weather Center, for example, provides a number of specific long term contracts which can be helpful for anyone selling to the agriculture market.

There are a number things that need to be considered when importing and appending or modeling external data. Some of the key aspects include:

  • A match code or record identifier whereby external records can be matched to your internal company records. Many systems use the DUNS number from D&B rather than trying to match on company names which can have too many variations to be useful.
  • The CRM record level needs to be established so that the organization is focused on companies at a local entity level or at the corporate HQ level.  For example, if your are selling multi-national network services, having lots of site recrods is probably not helpful when you most likely have to sell at the corporate level.
  • De-dupe your existing customers. When acquiring and integrating an external file — those external sources won’t know your customer set and you will likely be importing data about your existing customers. If you are going to turn around and send this new, enhanced data to your team, it makes sense to identify or remove existing clients from that effort so that your organization is not marketing to them all over again.
  • Identifying the key drivers that turn the vast sea of companies into prospects and then into clients will provide a solid list of key data attributes that can be used to append to existing records.  For example, these drivers may include elements such as revenue growth, productivity measures such as revenue per employee, credit ratings, multiple locations or selected industries.

In this era of marketing sophistication with increasing ‘tons’ of Big Data being available and sophisticated analytical tools coming to market every company has the opportunity to enhance their internal data by integrating external data and going to market armed with more insight than ever before.

Learn more about more the Global 5000 database

 

Technology and IT Spending Metric Options

When planning for global market growth and sizing up the opportunities in various countries, there is often a lack of data available from various industry sources. One could look at GDP figures or population data by country – both of those have some limitations. A better gauge might be to look at those business entities that generate the most revenue in each country as they will help contribute to other businesses in the geography and in general, raise the level of B2B activity overall.

Diving into the data of the Global 5000 companies – the 5000 largest companies in the world based on revenue – we find a couple of different ways to help guide your estimates of market size and rank order.

The first list is the top 10 countries by number of firms in our Global 5000 database with HQ in the country.

  • USA – 2148
  • Japan – 334
  • China – 221
  • UK – 183
  • Canada – 124
  • Germany – 98
  • France – 84
  • Australia – 77
  • India – 76
  • Italy – 65

For each company in the database, there is an estimate for the amount spent on IT – both internal and external costs. When we take those amounts for each country and look at the average IT spending for these leading firms, we see a different order of countries which would also prove to be attractive targets.

  • France – $902 million per company
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Venezuela
  • Italy
  • China
  • Switzerland
  • South Korea
  • New Zealand – $545 million per company

Of course, all these companies are the biggest of the big and not all companies in that country will spend at that level — but it is indicative of the relative IT spending on a country basis and again shows some of the potential for attractive markets as you eye global opportunities.

Learn more about more the Global 5000 database

Enterprise Search is Never Magic

How is it that the blockbuster deals for acquiring software companies that rank highest in their markets spaces seem to end up smelling bad several months into the deals? The latest acquisition to take on taint was written about in the Wall Street Journal today, noting that HP Reports $8.8 Billion Charge on Accounting Misstatement at Autonomy. Not to dispute the fact that enterprise search megastars Fast (acquired by Microsoft) and Autonomy had some terrific search algorithms and huge presence in the enterprise market, there is a lot more to supporting search than the algorithms.

The fact that surrounding support services have always been essential requirements for making these two products successful in deployment has been well documented over the years. Hundreds of system integrators and partner companies to Microsoft and Autonomy do very well making these systems deliver the value that has never been attainable with just out-of-the-box installations. It takes a team of content, search and vocabulary management specialists to deliver excellent results. For any but the largest corporations, the costs and time to achieve full implementation have rarely been justifiable.

Many fine enterprise search products deliver high value at much more reasonable costs, and with much more efficient packaging, shorter deployment times and lower on-going overhead. Never to be ignored is that enterprise search must be accounted for as infrastructure. Without knowing where the accounting irregularities (also true with Fast) actually lay, I suspect that HP bought the brand and the prospective customer relationships only to discover that the real money was being made by partners and integrators, and the software itself was a loss leader. If Autonomy did not bring with it a solid service and integration operation with strong revenues and work in the pipeline, HP could not have gained what it bargained for in the purchase. I “know” nothing but these are my hunches.

Reflecting back on a couple of articles (If a Vendor Spends Enough… and Enterprise Search and Collaboration…) I wrote a couple of years ago, as Autonomy began hyping its enterprise search prowess in Information Week ads, it seems that marketing is all the magic it needed to reel in the biggest fish of all – a sale to HP.

Successful Deployment of Systems of Engagement: Making it Work with the Team That Will Make it Work

Gilbane Conference Workshop: Successful Deployment of Systems of Engagement: Making it Work with the Team That Will Make it Work

Instructors: Scott Liewehr, President and Principal Analyst & Rob Rose, Senior Analyst, Digital Clarity Group
November 27th, 2012, 1:00pm – 4:00pm, at the InterContinental Boston Waterfront

We’ve all heard that enterprise marketing technology tools are really only as good as they are well-implemented. So why is it that enterprises often place much more effort into selecting the tool than they do the team that will make it work for their unique needs? Even if the deployment will be performed by the internal technology team, enterprise business managers need to make sure that the team that is going to help them realize their objectives by implementing the Web Content Management (WCM), Social, Marketing Automation, Search, and Analytics systems is ready to facilitate the new world of constant change in strategic content and web engagement. This workshop will explore proven methodologies for translating business strategies into selection criteria for both technologies and the agencies and integrators that implement them. It will prepare participants to answer critical questions that will help them ensure their enterprise technologies are successful:

  • What does my organization need to be prepared for?
  • How should I determine the optimal solutions given the many options?
  • What are the best practices for finding the best team to carry out my strategy and implement my chosen technology(ies)?
  • What responsibilities do I have for making sure the team is successful, and how can I stack the deck in my favor?

We will explore all of this and more in an entertaining, informative and actionable workshop. Led by Digital Clarity Group’s Scott Liewehr and Robert Rose, attendees will leave this workshop much better equipped to make strategic decisions about how to select and work with the team that help fulfill their vision.

See the full pre-conference workshop schedule at Gilbane Boston, then [button link=”http://gilbaneboston.com/registration_information.html” variation=”red”]Register[/button].

Tablets in the Enterprise and BYOD strategies

A couple of observations about tablets in the enterprise:

  • Tablets of all dimensions have a role in enterprise use, as do all types of personal computing devices.
  • BYOD is certainly a challenge for some organizations, but is a reminder of how we should have been managing data all along.

Tablets and other personal computing devices in the enterprise
One reaction to Apple‘s iPad mini last week was that it would change the dynamic of Apple’s market for tablets since a 7″ inch tablet is more appropriate for consumers so enterprises would stick to the 10″ versions. The only thing correct about this view is that the tablet market will change. But we don’t know how – use-cases are evolving and there are way too many variables beyond physical size. It seems just as likely that the iPad mini form-factor could grow faster in enterprises than the full size iPad. In any case there are certainly enterprise use cases for a smaller, cheaper iPad, especially since those seem to be the only significant differences, and there is no apparent app development cost or learning curve further easing enterprise adoption.

But the bigger point is that enterprises need to be able to support not only multiple tablet and smartphone form factors but a large subset of an unpredictably large set of personal device types.

This is not a new challenge, it is simply one that is accelerating because of the decreasing costs and increasing ease of device development. “Personal” devices in enterprises are not new – employees have often used their own personal computers especially as they shrunk in cost and to BYOD notebook size. Tablets and phones are the next step, but enterprises will soon be dealing with watches, wearable computing, and implants which is why…

BYOD strategies need to focus on the data not the devices
The BYOD continuum is also largely additive – employees aren’t just replacing devices but often using multiple devices to access and process much of the same data – keeping up with the variety and volume and versions of personal devices is hopeless. A BYOD management strategy that focuses on device management will at best have a negative impact on productivity, will certainly increase costs, and most likely fail. There are environments and applications where data security is critical enough to warrant the overhead of a device management strategy that approaches being fail-proof, but even in these cases the focus should be on the data itself with device control as a backup where it makes sense.

It may not be much easier to manage the data independently but that’s the ball to keep your eye on.

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