What will happen in the information sector in 2017?

As we look back at 2016, we can say that it has been an exciting and groundbreaking year that has changed how we handle information. Let’s look back at the major developments from 2016 and list key focus areas that will play an important role in 2017.

3 trends from 2016 that will lay basis for shaping the year 2017

Cloud

There has been a massive shift towards cloud, not only using the cloud for hosting services but building on top of cloud-based services. This has affected all IT projects, especially the Enterprise Search market when Google decided to discontinue GSA and replace it with a cloud based Springboard. More official information on Springboard is still to be published in writing, but reach out to us if you are keen on hearing about the latest developments.

There are clear reasons why search is moving towards the cloud. Some of the main ones being machine learning and the amount of data. We have an astonishing amount of information available, and the cloud is simply the best way to handle this overflow. Development in the cloud is faster, the cloud gives practically unlimited processing power and the latest developments available in the cloud are at an affordable price.

Machine learning

One area that has taken huge steps forward has been machine learning. It is nowadays being used in everyday applications. Google wrote a very informative blog post about how they use Cloud machine learning in various scenarios. But Google is not alone in this space – today, everyone is doing machine learning. A very welcome development was the formation of Partnership on AI by Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft.

We have seen how machine learning helps us in many areas. One good example is health care and IBM Watson managing to find a rare type of leukemia in 10 minutes. This type of expert assistance is becoming more common. While we know that it is still a long path to come before AI becomes smarter than human beings, we are taking leaps forward and this can be seen by DeepMind beating a human at the complex board game Go.

Internet of Things

Another important area is IoT. In 2016 most IoT projects have, in addition to consumer solutions, touched industry, creating a smart city, energy utilization or connected cars. Companies have realized that they nowadays can track any physical object to the benefits of being able to serve machines before they break, streamline or build better services or even create completely new business based on data knowledge. On the consumer side, we’ve in 2016 seen how IoT has become mainstream with unfortunate effect of poorly secured devices being used for massive attacks.

 

3 predictions for key developments happening in 2017

As we move towards the year 2017, we see that these trends from 2016 have positive effects on how information will be handled. We will have even more data and even more effective ways to use it. Here are three predictions for how we will see the information space evolve in 2017.

Insight engine

The collaboration with computers are changing. For decades, we have been giving tasks to computers and waited for their answer. This is slowly changing so that we start to collaborate with computers and even expect computers to take the initiative. The developments behind this is in machine learning and human language understanding. We no longer only index information and search it with free text. Nowadays, we can build a computer understanding information. This information includes everything from IoT data points to human created documents and data from other AI systems. This enables building an insight engine that can help us formulate the right question or even giving us insight based on information to a question we never ask. This will revolutionize how we handle our information how we interact with our user interfaces.

We will see virtual private assistants that users will be happy to use and train so that they can help us to use information like never before in our daily live. Google Now, in its current form, is merely the first step of something like this, being active towards bringing information to the user.

Search-driven analytics

The way we use and interact with data is changing. With collected information about pretty much anything, we have almost any information right at our fingertips and need effective ways to learn from this – in real time. In 2017, we will see a shift away from classic BI systems towards search-driven evolutions of this. We already have Kibana Dashboards with TimeLion and ThoughtSpot but these are only the first examples of how search is revolutionizing how we interact with data. Advanced analytics available for anyone within the organization, to get answers and predictions directly in graphs and diagrams, is what 2017 insights will be all about.

Conversational UIs

We have seen the rise of Chatbots in 2016. In 2017, this trend will also take on how we interact with enterprise systems. A smart conversational user interface builds on top of the same foundations as an enterprise search platform. It is highly personalized, contextually smart and builds its answers from information in various systems and information in many forms.

Imagine discussing future business focus areas with a machine that challenges us in our ideas and backs everything with data based facts. Imagine your enterprise search responding to your search with a question asking you to detail what you actually are achieving.

 

What are your thoughts on the future developement?

How do you see the 2017 change the way we interact with our information? Comment or reach out in other ways to discuss this further and have a Happy Year 2017!

 

Written by: Ivar Ekman

Generational renewal at work – a search challenge

The big generational shift

There have been discussions surrounding the great generational renewal in the workplace for a while. The 50’s generation, who have spent a large part of their working lives within the same company, are being replaced by an agile bunch born in the 90’s. We are not taken by tabloid claims that this new generation does not want to work, or that companies do not know how to attract them. What we are concerned with is that businesses are not adapting fast enough to the way the new generation handle information to enable the transfer of knowledge within the organisation.

Working for the same employer for decades

Think about it for a while, for how long have the 50’s generation been allowed to learn everything they know? We see it all the time, large groups of employees ready to retire, after spending their whole working lives within the same organisation. They began their careers as teenagers working on the factory floor or in a similar role, step by step growing within the company, together with the company. These employees have tended to carry a deep understanding of how their organisation work and after years of training, they possess a great deal of knowledge and experience. How many companies nowadays are willing to offer the 90’s workers the same kind of journey? Or should they even?

2016 – It’s all about constant accessibility

The world is different today, than 50 years ago. A number of key factors are shaping the change in knowledge-intense professions:

  • Information overload – we produce more and more information. Thanks to the Internet and the World Wide Web, the amount of information available is greater than ever.
  • Education has changed. Employees of the 50’s grew up during a time when education was about learning facts by rote. The schools of today focus more on teaching how to learn through experience, to find information and how to assess its reliability.
  • Ownership is less important. We used to think it was important to own music albums, have them in our collection for display. Nowadays it’s all about accessibility, to be able to stream Spotify, Netflix or an online game or e-book on demand. Similarly we can see the increasing trend of leasing cars over owning them. Younger generations take these services and the accessibility they offer for granted and they treat information the same way, of course. Why wouldn’t they? It is no longer a competitive advantage to know something by heart, since that information is soon outdated. A smarter approach of course is to be able to access the latest information. Knowing how to search for information – when you need it.

Factors supporting the need for organising the free flow of the right information:

  • Employees don’t stay as long as they used to in the same workplace anymore, which for example, requires a more efficient on boarding process. It’s no longer feasible to invest the same amount of time and effort on training one individual since he/she might be changing workplace soon enough anyway.
  • It is much debated whether it is possible to transfer knowledge or not. Current information on the other hand is relatively easy to make available to others.
  • Access to information does not automatically mean that the quality of information is high and the benefits great.

Organisations lack the right tools

Knowing a lot of facts and knowledge about a gradually evolving industry was once a competitive advantage. Companies and organisations have naturally built their entire IT infrastructure around this way of working. A lot of IT applications used today were built for a previous generation with another way of working and thinking. Today most challenges involve knowing where and how to find information. This is something we experience in our daily work with clients. Organisations more or less lack the necessary tools to support the needs of the newer generation in their daily work.

To summarize the challenge: organisations need to be able to supply their new workforce with the right tools to constantly find (and also manipulate) the latest and best information required for them to shine.

Success depends on finding the right information

In order for the new generation to succeed, companies must regularly review how information is handled plus the tools supporting information-heavy work tasks.

New employees need to be able to access the information and knowledge left by retiring employees, while creating and finding new content and information in such a way that information realises its true value as an asset.

Efficiency, automation… And Information Management!

There are several ways of improving efficiency, the first step is often to investigate if parts, or perhaps the entire creating and finding process can be automated. Secondly, attack the information challenges.

When we get a grip of the information we are to handle, it’s time to look into the supporting IT systems. How are employees supposed to find what they are looking for? How do they want to?

We have gotten used to find answers by searching online. This is in the DNA of the 90’s employee. By investing in a great search platform and developing processes to ensure high information quality within the organisation, we are certain the organisation will not only manage the generational renewal but excel in continuously developing new information centric services.

Written by: Maria “Ia” Björk & Joar Svensson

Enterprise-Linked-Data and the Connected Digital Workplace

The emerging hyper-connected and agile enterprises of today are stigmatised by their IS/IT-legacy, so the question is: Will emerging web and semantic technologies and practices undo this stigma?

The Shift

Semantic Technologies and Linked-Open-Data (LOD) have evolved since Tim Berners-Lee introduced their basic concepts, and they are now part of everyday business on the Internet, thanks mainly due to their uptake by information and data-run companies like Google, social networks like Facebook and large content sites, like Wikipedia. The enterprise information landscape is ready to be enhanced by semantic web, to increase findability and usability. This change will enable a more agile digital workplace where members of staff can use cloud based services, anywhere, anytime on any device, in combination with the set of legacy systems backing their line-of-business. All in all, more efficient organising principles for information and data.

The Corporate Information Landscape of today

In everyday workplace we use digital tools to cope with the tasks at hand. These tools have been set into action to address meta models to structure the social life dealing with information and data. The legacy of more than 60 years of digital records keeping, has left us in an extremely complex environment, where most end-users have a multitude of spaces where they are supposed to contribute. In many cases their information environment lacks interoperability.

A good, or rather bad example of this, is the electronic health records (EHR) of a hospital, where several different health professionals try to codify their on-going work in order to make better informed decisions regarding the different medical treatments. While this is a good thing, it is heavily hampered with closed-down silos of data that do not work in conjunction with the new more agile work practices. It is not uncommon to have more than 20 different information systems employed to do provisioning during a workday.

The information systems architecture, in any organisation or enterprise, may comprise of home-grown legacy systems from the past, or bought off-the-shelf software suites and extremely complex enterprise-wide information systems like ERP, BI, CRM and the like. The connections between these information systems (or integration points) often resemble “spaghetti” syndrome, point-to-point. The work practice for many IT professionals is to map this landscape of connections and information flows, using for example Enterprise Architecture models. Many organisations use information integration engines, like enterprise-service-bus applications, or master data applications, as means to decouple the tight integration and get away from the proprietary software lock-in.

On top of all these schema-based, structured data, information systems, lies the social and collaborative layer of services, with things like intranet (web based applications), document management, enterprise wide social networks (e.g. Yammer) and collaborative platforms (e.g SharePoint) and more obviously e-mail, instant messaging and voice/video meeting applications. All of these platforms and spaces where one  carries out work tasks, have either semi-structured (document management) or unstructured data.

Wayfinding

A matter of survival in the enterprise information environment, requires a large dose of endurance, and skills. Many end-users get lost in their quest to find the relevant data when they should be concentrating on making well-informed decisions. Wayfinding is our in-built adaptive way of coping with the unexpected and dealing with it. Finding different pathways and means to solve the issues. In other words … Findability.

Outside-in and Inside-Out

Today most organisations and enterprises workers act on the edge of the corporate landscape – in network conversations with customers, clients, patients/citizens, partners, or even competitors, often employing means not necessarily hosted inside the corporate walls. On the Internet we see newly emerging technologies become used and adapted at a faster rate and in a more seamless fashion than the existing cumbersome ones of the internal information landscape. So the obvious question raised in all this flux is: why can’t our digital workplace (the inside information landscape) be as easy to use and to find things / information as in the external digital landscape? Why do I find knowledgeable peers in communities of practice more easily outside than I do on the inside? Knowledge sharing on the outpost of the corporate wall is vivid, and truly passionate whereas inside it is pretty stale and lame to say the least.

Release the DATA now

Aggregate technologies, such as Business Intelligence and Datawarehouse, use a capture, clean-up, transform and load mechanism (ETL) from all the existing supporting information systems. The problem is that the schemas and structures of things do not compile that easily. Different uses and contexts make even the most central terms difficult to unleash into a new context. This simply does not work. The same problem can be seen in the enterprise search realm where we try to cope with both unstructured or semi-structured data. One way of solving all this is to create one standard that all the others have to follow and including a least common denominator combined with master data management. In some cases this can work, but often the set of failures fromsuch efforts are bigger than those arising from trying to squeeze an enterprise into a one-size-fits-all mega-matrix ERP-system.

Why is that? you might ask, from the blueprint it sounds compelling. Just align the business processes and then all data flows will follow a common path. The reality unfortunately is way more complex because any organisation comprises of several different processes, practices, professions and disciplines. These all have a different perspectives of the information and data that is to be shared. This is precisely why we have so many applications in the first place! To what extent are we able to solve this with emerging semantic technologies? These technologies are not a silver bullet, far from it! The Web however shows a very different way of integration thinking, with interoperability and standards becoming the main pillars that all the other things rely on. If you use agreed and controlled vocabularies and standards, there is a better chance of actually being able to sort out all the other things.

Remember that most members of staff, work on the edges of the corporate body, so they have to align themselves to the lingo from all the external actor-networks and then translate it all into codified knowledge for the inside.

Semantic Interoperability

Today most end-users use internet applications and services that already use semantic enhancements to bridge the gap between things, without ever having to think about such things. One very omnipresent social network is Facebook, that relies upon the FOAF (Friend-of-a-Friend) standard for their OpenGraph. Using a Graph to connect data, is the very corner stone of linked-data and the semantic web. A thing (entity) has descriptive properties, and relations to other entities. One entity’s property might be another entity in the Graph. The simple relationship subject-predicate-object. Hence from the graph we get a very flexible and resilient platform, in stark contrast to the more traditional fixed schemas.

The Semantic Web and Linked-Data are a way to link different data sets that may grow from a multitude of schemas and contexts into one fluid interlinked experience. If all internal supporting systems or at least the aggregate engines could simply apply a semantic texture to all the bits and bytes flowing around, it could well provide a solution to the area where other set ups have failed. Remember that these linked-data sets are resilient by nature.

There is a  set of controlled vocabularies (thesauri, ontologies and taxonomies) that capture all the of topics, themes and entities that make up the world. These vocabs have to some extent already been developed, classified and been given sound resource descriptors (RDF). The Linked-Open-Data clouds are experiencing a rapid growth of meaningful expressions. WikiData, dbPedia, Freebase and many more ontologies have a vast set of crispy and useful data that when intersected with internal vocabularies, can make things so much easier. A very good example of such useful vocabularies, are the ones developed by professional information science people is that of the Getty Institute’s recently released thesari for AAT (Arts and Architecture), CONA (Cultural Object Authority) and TGN (Geographical Names). These are very trustworthy resources, and using linked-data anybody developing a web or mobile app can reuse their namespace for free and with high accuracy. And the same goes for all the other data-sets in the linked-open-data cloud. Many governments have declared open data as the main innovation space in which to release their things, under the realm of the “Commons”.

Inaddition to this, all major search engines have agreed on a set of very simple-to-use schemas captured in the www.schema.org world. These schemas have been very well received from their very inception by the webmaster community. All of these are feeding into the Google Knowledge Graph and all the other smart-things (search-enabled) we are using daily.

From the corporate world, these Internet mega-trends, have, or should have, a big impact on the way we do information management inside the corporate walls. This would be particularly the case if the siloed repositories and records were semantically enhanced from their inception (creation), for subsequent use and archiving. We would then see more flexible and fluid information management within the digital workplace.

The name of the game is interoperability at every level: not just technical device specifics, but interoperability at the semantic level and at the level we use governing principles for how we organise our data and information, regardless of their origin.

Stepping down, to some real-life examples

In the law enforcement system in any country, there is a set of actor-networks at play: the police, attorneys, courts, prisons and the like. All of them work within an inter-organisational process from capturing a suspect, filing a case, running a court session, judgement, sentencing and imprisonment; followed at the end by a reassimilated member of society.  Each of these actor-networks or public agencies have their own internal information landscape with supporting information systems, and they all rely on a coherent and smooth flow of information and data between each other. The problem is that while they may use similar vocabularies, the contexts in which they are used may be very different due to their different responsibilities and enacted environment (laws, regulations, policies, guidelines, processes and practices) when looking from a holistic perspective.

IA LOD Innovation

A way to supersede this would be to infuse semantic technologies and shared controlled vocabularies throughout, so that the mix of internal information systems could become interoperable regardless of the supporting information system or storage type. In such a case linked-open-data and semantic enhancements could glue and bridge the gaps to form one united composite, managed by just one individual’s record keeping. In such a way, the actual content would not be exposed, rather a metadata schema would be employed to cross any of the previously existing boundaries.

This is a win-win situation, as semantic technologies and any linked-open-data tinkering use the shared conversation (terms and terminologies) that already exists within the various parts of the process. While all parts cohere to the semantic layers, there is no need to reconfigure  internal processes or apply other parties’ resource descriptions and elements. In such a way only parts of schemas are used that are context specific for a given part of a process, and so allowing the lingo of the related practices and professions to be aligned.

This is already happening in practice in the internal workplace environment of an existing court, where a shared intranet is based on such organising principles as already mentioned, uses applied sound and pragmatic information management practices and metadata standards like Dublin Core and Common Vocabularies –  all of which are infused in Content Provisioning.

For the members of staff, working inside a court setting, this is a major improvement, as they use external databases everyday to gain insights in order to carry out their duties. And when the internal workplace uses such a set up, their knowledge sharing can grow –  leading to both improved wayfinding and findability.

Yet another interesting case, is a service company that operates on a global scale. They are an authoritative resource in their line-of-business, maintaining a resource of rules and regulations that have become a canonical reference. By moving into a new expanded digital workplace environment (internet, extranet and intranet) and using semantic enhancement and search, they get a linked-data set that can be used by clients, competitors and all others working within their environment. At the same time their members of staff can use the very same vocabularies to semantically enhance their provision of information and data into the different information systems internally.

The last example is an industrial company with a mix of products within their line-of-business. They have grown through M&A over the years, and ended up in a dead-end mess of information systems that do not interoperate at all. A way to overcome the effect of past mergers and aquisitions, was to create an information governance framework. Applying it  with MDM and semantic search they were able to decouple data and information, and as a result making their workplace more resilient in a world of constant flux.

One could potentially apply these pragmatic steps to any line of business, since most themes and topics have been created and captured by the emerging semantic web and linked-data realm. It is only a matter of time before more will jump on this bandwagon in order to take advantage of changes that have the ability to make them a canonical reference, and a market leader. Just think of the film industry’s IMDB.

A final thought: Are the vendors ready and open-minded enough to alter their software and online services in order to realise this outlined future enterprise information landscape?

For more information please read these online resources, or go for the executive brief video clip:
Enterprise-Linked-Data
http://testing.rachaelkalicun.info/led_book/led-contents.html

Exec Brief

Europeana brief for memory institutions using linked-open-data:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Linked-open-data-Europeana-video.ogv

Linked-Open-Data network Sweden 2014 presentation:
http://livingarchives.mah.se/2014/03/linked-data-2014/
and Fredric’s talk about semantic enhanced citizen participation and slides.

The future linked-data enterprise, from Intranätverk conference in Göteborg, in May 2014
Fredric Landqvist and Kerstin Forsbergs’s talk, and slides.

Enterprise Search Europe 2014 – Short Review

ESE Summit

At the end of April  a third edition of Enterprise Search Europe conference took place.  The venue was Park Plaza Victoria Hotel in London. Two-day event was dedicated to widely understood search solutions. There were two tracks covering subjects relating to search management, big data, open source technologies, SharePoint and as always –  the future of search. According to the organizer’ information, there were 30 experts presenting their knowledge and experience in implementation search systems and making content findable. It was  opportunity to get familiar with lots of case studies focused on relevancy, text mining, systems architecture and even matching business requirements. There were also speeches on softer skills, like making  decisions or finding good  employees.

In a word, ESE 2014 summit was great chance to meet highly skilled professionals with competence in business-driven search solutions. Representatives from both specialized consulting companies and universities were present there. Even second day started from compelling plenary session about the direction of enterprise search. Presentation contained two points of view: Jeff Fried, CTO in BA-Insight and Elaine Toms, Professor of Information Science, University of Sheffield. From industrial aspect analyzing user behavior,  applying world knowledge or improving information structure is a  real success. On the other hand, although IR systems are currently in mainstream, there are many problems: integration is still a challenge, systems working rules are unclear, organizations neglect investments in search specialists. As Elaine Toms explained, the role of scientists is to restrain an uncertainty by prototyping and forming future researchers. According to her, major search problems are primitive user interfaces and too few systems services. What is more, data and information often become of secondary importance, even though it’s a core of every search engine.

Trends

Despite of many interesting presentations, particularly one caught my attention. It was “Collaborative Search” by Martin White, Conference Chair and Managing Director in Intranet Focus. The subject was current condition of enterprise search and  requirements which such systems will have to face in the future. Martin White is convinced that limited users satisfaction is mainly fault of poor content quality and insufficient information management. Presentation covered  absorbing results of various researches. One of them, described in “Characterizing and Supporting Cross-Device Search Tasks” document, was analysis of commercial search engine logs in order to find behavior patterns associated with cross device searching. Switching between devices can be a hindrance because of device multiplicity. That is why each user needs to remember both what he was searching and what has already been found. Findings show that there are lots of opportunities to handle information seeking more effectively in multi-device world. Saving and re-instating user session, using time between switching devices to get more results or making use of behavioral, geospatial data to predict task resumption are just a few examples of ideas.

Despite everything, the most interesting part of Martin White’s presentation was dedicated to Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS).

Collaborative Information Seeking

It is natural that difficult and complex tasks forced people to work together. Collaboration in information retrieval helps to use systems more effectively. This idea concentrate on situations when people should cooperate to seek information or sense-make. In fact, CIS covers on the one hand elements connected with organizational behavior or making decision, on the other – evolution of user interface and designing systems of immediate data processing. Furthermore, Martin White considers CIS context to be focused around the complex queries, “second phase” queries, results evaluation or ranking algorithms. This concept is able to bring the highest values in the domains like chemistry, medicine and law.

During the CIS exploration some definitions appeared:  collaborative information retrieval, social searching, co-browsing, collaborative navigation, collaborative information behavior, collaborative information synthesis.  My intention is to introduce some of them.

"Collaborative Information Seeking", Chirag Shah

1. “Collaborative Information Seeking”, Chirag Shah

Collaborative Information Retrieval (CIR) extends traditional IR for the purposes of many users. It supports scenarios when problem is complicated and when seeking common information is a need. To support groups’ actions, it is crucial to know how they work, what are their strengths and weaknesses. In general, it might be said that such system could be an overlay on search engine re-ranking results, based on users community knowledge. In agreement with Chirag Shah, the author of “Collaborative Information Seeking” book, there are some examples of systems where workgroup’s queries and related results are captured and used to filtering more relevant information for particular user. One of the most absorbing case is SearchTogether – interface designed for collaborative web search, described by Meredith R. Morris and Eric Horvitz. It allows to work both synchronously and asynchronously. History of queries, page metadata and annotations serve as information carrier for user. There had been implemented an automatic and manual division of labor. One of its feature was recommending pages to another information seeker. All sessions and past findings were persisted and stored for future collaborative searching.

Despite of many efforts made in developing such systems, probably none of them has been widely adopted. Perhaps it was caused partly by its non-trivial nature, partly by lack of concept how to integrate them with other parts of collaboration in organizations.

Another ideas associated with CIS are Social Search and Collaborative Filtering. First one is about how social interactions could help in searching together. What is interesting,  despite of rather weak ties between people in social networks, their enhancement may be already observed in collaborative networks. Second definition referred to provide more relevant search results based on user past behavior, but also community of users displaying similar interests. It is noteworthy that it is an example of asynchronous interaction, because its value is based on past actions – in contrast with CIS where emphasis is laid to active users communication. Collaborative Filtering has been applied in many domains: industry, financial, insurance or web. At present the last one is most common and it’s used in e-commerce business. CF methods make a base for recommender systems predicting users preferences. It is so broad topic, that certainly deserves a separate article.

CIS Barriers

Regardless of all these researches, CIS is facing many challenges nowadays. One of them is information security in the company. How to struggle out of situation when team members do not have the same security profile or when some person cannot even share with others what has been found? Discussed systems cannot be only created for information seeking, but also they need to  provide managing security, support situations when results were not found because of permissions or situations when it is necessary to view a new document created in cooperation process. If it is not enough, there are various organization’s barriers hindering CIS idea. They are divided into categories – organizational, technical, individual, and team. They consist of things such as organization culture and structure, multiple and un-integrated systems, individual person perception or varied conflicts appeared during team work. Barriers and their implications have been described in detail in document “Barriers to Collaborative Information Seeking in Organizations” by Arvind Karunakaran and Madhu Reddy.

Collaborative information seeking is exciting field of research and one of the search trend. Another absorbing topic is gamification adopting in IR systems. This is going to be a subject of my next article.

Speaking about Search as a Service @ PROMISE Technology Transfer day, want to meet up?

Tomorrow morning I leave Gothenburg to attend the PROMISE Technology Transfer day @ CeBIT 2013 in Hanover, Germany.

The event is a workshop introducing its participants to methodologies for the systematic evaluation and monitoring of search engines, and for discussing future trends and requirements for the next generation of information access systems. In other words, it is right up our alley at Findwise.

As Director of Research at Findwise I will speak about Search as a Service. If you are at the event or just nearby I would be happy to meet up and have a chat.  I will be around from Tuesday March 5 until Thursday March 7. Feel free to email me, henrik.strindberg@findwise.com or give me a call at +46709443905.

Hope to see you there!

Predictive Analytics World 2012

At the end of November 2012 top predictive analytics experts, practitioners, authors and business thought leaders met in London at Predictive Analytics World conference. Cameral nature of the conference combined with great variety of experiences brought by over 60 attendees and speakers made a unique opportunity to dive into the topic from Findwise perspective.

Dive into Big Data

In the Opening Keynote, presented by Program Chairman PhD Geert Verstraeten, we could hear about ways to increase the impact of Predictive Analytics. Unsurprisingly a lot of fuzz is about embracing Big Data.  As analysts have more and more data to process, their need for new tools is obvious. But business will cherish Big Data platforms only if it sees value behind it. Thus in my opinion before everything else that has impact on successful Big Data Analytics we should consider improving business-oriented communication. Even the most valuable data has no value if you can’t convince decision makers that it’s worth digging it.

But beeing able to clearly present benefits is not everything. Analysts must strive to create specific indicators and variables that are empirically measurable. Choose the right battles. As Gregory Piatetsky (data mining and predictive analytics expert) said: more data beats better algorithms, but better questions beat more data.

Finally, aim for impact. If you have a call center and want to persuade customers not to resign from your services, then it’s not wise just to call everyone. But it might also not be wise to call everyone you predict to have high risk of leaving. Even if as a result you loose less clients, there might be a large group of customers that will leave only because of the call. Such customers may also be predicted. And as you split high risk of leaving clients into “persuadable” ones and “touchy” ones, you are able to fully leverage your analytics potencial.

Find it exciting

Greatest thing about Predictive Analytics World 2012 was how diverse the presentations were. Many successful business cases from a large variety of domains and a lot of inspiring speeches makes it hard not to get at least a bit excited about Predictive Analytics.

From banking and financial scenarios, through sport training and performance prediction in rugby team (if you like at least one of: baseball, Predictive Analytics or Brad Pitt, I recommend you watch Moneyball movie). Not to mention Case Study about reducing youth unemployment in England. But there are two particular presentations I would like to say a word about.

First of them was a Case Study on Predicting Investor Behavior in First Social Media Sentiment-Based Hedge Fund presented by Alexander Farfuła – Chief Data Scientist at MarketPsy Capital LLC. I find it very interesting because it shows how powerful Big Data can be. By using massive amount of social media data (e.g. Twitter), they managed to predict a lot of global market behavior in certain industries. That is the essence of Big Data – harness large amount of small information chunks that are useless alone, to get useful Big Picture.

Second one was presented by Martine George – Head of Marketing Analytics & Research at BNP Paribas Fortis in Belgium. She had a really great presentation about developing and growing teams of predictive analysts. As the topic is brisk at Findwise and probably in every company interested in analytics and Big Data, I was pleased to learn so much and talk about it later on in person.

Big (Data) Picture

Day after the conference John Elder from Elder Research led an excellent workshop. What was really nice is that we’ve concentrated on the concepts not the equations. It was like a semester in one day – a big picture that can be digested into technical knowledge over time. But most valuable general conclusion was twofold:

  • Leverage – an incremental improvement will matter! When your turnover can be counted in millions of dollars even half percent of saving mean large additional revenue.
  • Low hanging fruit – there is lot to gain what nobody else has tried yet. That includes reaching for new kinds of data (text data, social media data) and daring to make use of it in a new, cool way with tools that weren’t there couple of years ago.

Plateau of Productivity

As a conclusion, I would say that Predictive Analytics has become a mature, one of the most useful disciplines on the market. As in the famous Gartner Hype, Predictive Analytics reached has reached the Plateau of Productivity. Though often ungrateful, requiring lots of resources, money and time, it can offer your company a successful future.

Enterprise Search and Findability discussions at World Cafe in Oslo

Yesterday we (Kristian Hjelseth and Kristian Norling) participated in a great World Cafe event arranged by Steria in Norway. We did a Pecha Kucha inspired presentation (scroll down to the bottom of this blog post for the presentation) to introduce the subject of Enterprise Search and Findability and how to work more efficiently with the help of enterprise search. Afterwards there was a set of three round-table workshop with practitioners, where search related issues were discussed. We found the discussions very interesting, so we thought we should share some of the topics with a broader audience.

The attendees had answered a survey before coming to the World Cafe. In which 83,3% stated that finding the right information was critical for their business goals. But only 20,3% were satisfied with their current search solution, because 75% said it was hard or very hard to find the right information. More stats from a global survey on enterprise search that asked the same questions.

Unified Search

To have all the information that you would like to find in the same search was deemed very important for findability by the participants. The experience of search is that the users don’t know what to search for, but to make it even worse, they do not know where to look for the information! This is also confirmed by the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey that was done earlier this year. The report is available for download.

Trust

Google web search always comes up as an example of what “just works”. And it does work because they found a clever algorithm, PageRank, that basically measures the trustworthiness of information. Since PageRank is heavily dependent on inbound links this way of measuring trust is probably not going to work on an intranet where cross-referencing is not as common based on our experience. Most of the time it is not even possible to link stuff on the intranet, since the information is not accessible through http. Read more about it in this great in-depth article series on the difference between web search and enterprise search by Mark Bennet.

So how can we make search inside the firewall as good as web search? I think by connecting the information to the author. Trust builds between people based on their views of others. Simply put, someone has the authority over her peers either through rank (=organisation chart) or through trust. The trustworthiness can be based on the persons ability to connect to other people (we all probably know someone who knows “everyone”) or we trust someone based on the persons knowledge. More reading on the importance of trust in organisations. How to do this in practice? Some ideas in this post by BIll Ives. Also a good read: “How social is Enterprise Search?” by Jed Cawthorne. And finally another good post to read.

Metadata

By adding relevant metadata to information, we can make it more findable. There was discussions on the importance of strict and controlled metadata and how to handle user tagging. For an idea on how to think about metadata, read a blog post on how VGR used metadata by Kristian Norling.

Search Analytics

Before you start to do any major work with your current enterprise search solution, look at the search log files and analyze the data. You might be surprised in what you find. Search analytics is great if you want insight into what the user expects to find when they search. Watch this video for an introduction to Search Analytics in Practice.

Other subjects

  • Access control and transparency
  • Who owns search?
  • Who owns the information?
  • Personalization of search results
All these subjects and many more were discussed at the workshops, but that will have to wait for another blog post!
As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome!

Findwise at the J. Boye 12 conference [Updated]

It is with great pleasure we can announce us as a partner of the J. Boye 12 conference in Aarhus (November 6-8). The J. Boye 12 is a conference focused around web and intranet to give practitioners and experts an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and experiences in a professional, yet informal atmosphere.

Findwise will contribute to the conference with a speaker. Kristian Norling, our Market Communication manager, will give his view on future findability trends in “Enterprise Search and Findability Trends 2013” and will also offer an expert tutorial. The topic of the tutorial will be “Optimizing Your Content for Findability“.

Hope to see you there!

Findability day in Stockholm – search trends and customer insights

Last Thursday about 50 of Findwise customers, friends and people from the industry gathered in Stockholm for a Findability day (#findday12). The purpose was simply to share experiences from choosing, implementing and developing search and findability solutions for all types of business and use cases.

Martin White, who has been in the intranet business since 1996, held the keynote speech about “Why business success depends on search”.
Among other things he spoke about why the work starts once search is implemented, how a search team should be staffed and what the top priority areas are for larger companies.
Martin has also published an article about Enterprise Search Team Management  that gives valuable insight in how to staff a search initiative. The latest research note from Martin White on Enterprise search trends and developments.

Henrik Sunnefeldt, SKF, and Joakim Hallin, SEB, were next on stage and shared their experiences from working with larger search implementations.
Henrik, who is program manager for search at SKF, showed several examples of how search can be applied within an enterprise (intranet, internet, apps, Search-as-a-Service etc) to deliver value to both employees and customers.
As for SEB, Joakim described how SEB has worked actively with search for the past two years. The most popular and successful implementation is a Global People Search. The presentation showed how SEB have changed their way of working; from country specific phone books to a single interface that also contains skills, biographies, tags and more.

During the day we also had the opportunity to listen to three expert presentations about Big data (by Daniel Ling and Magnus Ebbeson), Hydra – a content processing framework – video and presentation (by Joel Westberg) and Better Business, Protection & Revenue (by David Kemp from Autonomy).
As for Big data, there is also a good introduction here on the Findability blog.

Niklas Olsson and Patric Jansson from KTH came on stage at 15:30 and described how they have been running their swift-footed search project during the last year. There are some great learnings from working early with requirements and putting effort into the data quality.

Least, but not last, the day ended with Kristian Norling from Findwise who gave a presentation on the results from the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey. 170 respondents from all over the world filled out the survey during the spring 2012 that showed quite some interesting patterns.
Did you for example know that in many organisations search is owned either by IT (58%) or Communication (29%), that 45% have no specified budget for search and 48% of the participants have less than 1 dedicated person working with search?  Furtermore, 44,4% have a search strategy in place or are planning to have one in 2012/13.
The survey results are also discussed in one of the latest UX-postcasts from James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom.

Thank you to all presenters and participants who contributed to making Findability day 2012 inspiring!

We are currently looking into arranging Findability days in Copenhagen in September, Oslo in October and Stockholm early next spring. If you have ideas (speakers you would like to hear, case studies that you would like insight in etc), please let us know.

Update on The Enterprise Search and Findability Survey

A quick update on the status of the Enterprise Search survey.

We now have well over a hundred respondents. The more respondents the better the data will be, so please help spreading the word. We’d love to have  several hundred more. The survey will now be open until the end of April.

But most important of all, if you haven’t already, have a cup of coffee and fill in the survey.

A Few Results from the Survey about Enterprise Search

More than 60% say that the amount of searchable content in their organizations today are less or far less than needed. And in three years time 85% say that the amount of searchable content in the organisation will increase och increase significantly.

75% say that it is critical to find the right information to support their organizations business goals and success. But the interesting to note is that over 70% of the respondents say that users don’t know where to find the right information or what to look for – and about 50% of the respondents say that it is not possible to search more than one source of information from a single search query.

In this context it is interesting that the primary goal for using search in organisations (where the answer is imperative or signifact) is to:

  • Improve re-use of information and/or knowledge) – 59%
  • Accelerate brokering of people and/or expertise – 55%
  • Increase collaboration – 60%
  • Raise awareness of “What We Know” – 57%
  • and finally to eliminate siloed repositories – 59%

In many organisations search is owned either by IT (60%) or Communication (27%), search has no specified budget (38%) and has less than 1 dedicated person working with search (48%).  More than 50% have a search strategy in place or are planning to have one in 2012/13.

These numbers I think are interesting, but definitely need to be segmented and analyzed further. That will of course be done in the report which is due to be ready in June.