Relevance Feedback is Key to the Information-Driven Economy

As the data-driven age gives way to an information-driven economy where context is critical to surfacing useful insights from data, taking in relevance feedback from users, especially expert users, will play a major role in driving the benefits. This article explains the concept of a relevance feedback model and why you should care.

What is a Relevance Feedback Model?

Assume you ask a person or a system to provide you with information on a certain topic. There may be many facets to this topic, and you may get information from a whole range of different aspects. If you are working with that person or that system on a permanent basis, you may want to tell them that only certain aspects and hence certain kinds of information are relevant to you – in the hope of getting only the more relevant answers from them the next time you ask. You give the person or system “relevance feedback”.

Now let’s concentrate on a system, a cognitive information retrieval system or a “system of insight”. In that context, a relevance feedback model (RFM) is the capability of the system to take your relevance feedback and “internalize” it in order to tune the results of your future queries to what is most relevant.

The system performs and automates this task by adjusting weights attributed to certain terms and their equivalents (i.e. terms with the same or similar meanings) within the data it processes.
Imagine you asked “what do we have on MRO”, and you got information back on maintenance, repair and operations, but you told the system that you are only interested in anything pertaining to “Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter”. The next time you ask, you will get information only pertaining to the latter and possibly on related topics like Mars landing craft, automated robots for planetary exploration, etc.

RFM

For one person and one query, that seem rather simple. But now imagine, that you have tens of thousands of colleagues and thousands of topics to cover. That is when the RFM benefits from machine learning algorithms, not only to detect the preferences of each person but also of groups of people with similar interests, similarities in documents, etc. to spread the user relevance feedback to other documents, queries and people on an ongoing basis in an automated way.

Why use a Relevance Feedback Model?

A key benefit of a relevance feedback model is to enable users, in particular expert users, to affect relevance appropriate to their environment without the IT department having to implement rules for relevance according to specific user groups. It allows administrators to decide by configuration which specific users within the organization will contribute as well as the exact factor of relevancy improvement.

The relevance feedback model can also go a long way towards improving the human-machine interaction. As the relevance of certain content increases significantly due to relevance feedback, the user experience starts to feel much more “conversational” – i.e offering one to three suggestions as “answers” to a query – than a traditional search interface offering a list of documents in response to a query.

The RFM provides a way to discover from everyone’s experience the information that best answers the question. Take the real-world case of a customer service representative (CSR) seeking an answer to a customer’s product question using the product name or code. In this case, the CSR will obtain a diverse set of documents including parts catalogs, how-to information, product specifications, packaging information, marketing material, etc. All of this information is relevant but only some of it may help the CSR answer the customer’s question.

Thanks to the RFM, the CSR would immediately see information she has already viewed when she searched similar things in the past because the RFM takes into account the user’s “click actions” and applies a tiny relevance boost accordingly. Perhaps even more powerfully, the RFM will also modify the order of the results by observing (over time) what information other CSRs spend time to discover, even when they dive deeply into the results list for relevant information. Organizations striving to take full advantage of the RFM will configure it so that the experts’ interactions with the system provide bigger boosts for important content and even ban inaccurate information from appearing in results lists.

As you can see from the example above, the RFM provides a collaborative way to modify search result order. It is neither a tagging nor a classification approach, both of which can be done at indexing time (extracting metadata from source, entity extraction with Natural Language Processing) or afterwards (classification through ML algorithm like clustering, similarity computation, and so forth). The RFM arguably represents a smarter approach by directly incorporating human decisions when presenting information that will best address a user’s query.

As information-driven organizations strive for ever higher degrees of accuracy for end users seeking knowledge, the ability to leverage relevance feedback from users, especially expert users, automatically at scale becomes increasingly mission-critical for optimal business performance.

 

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Cognitive Search Brings the Power of AI to Enterprise Search

Forrester, one of the leading analyst firms, defines Cognitive Search in a recent report¹ as: The new generation of enterprise search that employs AI technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning to ingest, understand, organize, and query digital content from multiple data sources. Here is a shorter version, easy to memorize: Cognitive Search = Search + NLP + AI/ML
Of course, “search” in this equation is not the old keyword search but high-performance search integrating different kinds of analytics. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is not just statistical treatment of languages but comprises deep linguistic and semantic analysis. And AI is not just “sprinkled” on an old search framework but part of an integrated, scalable, end-to-end architecture.

AI Needs Data, Lots of Data
For AI and ML algorithms to work well, they need to be fed with as much data you can get at. A cognitive search platform must access the vast majority of data sources of an enterprise: internal and external data of all types, data on premises and in the cloud. Hence the system must be highly scalable.

Continuous Enrichment
Cognitive Search uses NLP and machine learning to accumulate knowledge about structured and unstructured data and about user preferences and behavior. That is how users get ever more relevant information in their work context. To accumulate knowledge, a cognitive search platform needs a repository for this knowledge. We call that a “Logical Data Warehouse” (LDW).

The Strength of Combination
To produce the best possible results, the different analytical methods must be combined, not just executed in isolation of each other. For example, machine learning algorithms deliver much better results much faster if they work on textual data for which linguistic and semantic analyses have already extracted concepts and relationships between concepts.

Whitepaper-kmworld-07-2017Get your copy of the full paper here and learn more about current use cases of cognitive search and AI at large information-driven companies.

(1) Forrester Wave: Cognitive Search & Knowledge Discovery Solutions, Q2 2017
Read the full report on https://www.sinequa.com/forrester-wave-2017/

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Sinequa’s Big Splash at Bio IT World 2017

PHARMA CONNECTION
Sinequa has taken part for the 4th consecutive year in Bio IT World Conference & Expo on May 23-25 in Boston. We’ve been delighted to meet with our Biopharma and Life Science customers and partners at the show and share innovative use cases of our solution for the Pharma industry via live demos.
Bio IT Demo

“OPEN” LIVE DEMOS

Bio ITBio IT World conference is always for us a great venue to showcase our platform and present how leading biopharma organizations leverage our Cognitive Search & Analytics platform. This year, the attendees were very interested to see how Sinequa combines advanced Search, NLP and Machine Learning capabilities to extract relevant insight from vast structured and unstructured data silos.

 ALEXION’S CONTENT ANALYSIS PROJECT: MINING CONTENT FOR ACTIONABLE INSIGHT WITH SINEQUA

Alexion-Martin-Leach-Bio-IT-2017-SinequaIn our joint talk, our customer Alexion shared a testimonial on the implementation of Sinequa for their content analysis project. The presentation highlighted the technology and approaches they used with advanced data visualizations that help explain information sources. ICYMI – please feel free to get your copy here.

UNLIMITED THEATER PRESENTATIONS

Once again, we were very pleased to see the strong interest of many biopharma professionals toward Sinequa insight platform. Our team gave more than a hundred presentations and live demos in the Sinequa Theater Area where they explained a large panel of use cases including R&D Enterprise Search, Clinical Trial Data Discovery & Exploration, Key Opinion Leaders & Subject Matter Experts… .) BioIT17-Demo-TheaterWe hope you enjoyed the conference as much as we did and you could understand how our Cognitive Search & Analytics platform enable leading pharmaceutical organizations drive innovation, accelerate research and shorten drug Time-to-Market. We are already getting excited for next year’s edition! See you all in spring 2018!

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Cognitive Search & Analytics Capabilities Out of the Box for Box Customers

In today’s digital age, leading organizations are looking for better ways to get more out of their data. They are choosing platforms that make every employee more connected, productive, and mobile-without compromising security. As companies adopt Box, providing intuitive information access and advanced search capabilities become increasingly important to end users. Using advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning algorithms, Sinequa’s Cognitive Search & Analytics platform enables users to search, analyze and gain valuable insights extracted from Box content repositoriesalong with on-premises enterprise applications, big data and cloud environments.

To build a sophisticated search and analytics engine is one thing, but to build such an engine that can preserve all the native security and permissions settings of connected repositories is another matter altogether. With Sinequa and Box connected, workers can search the Box environment (and all other data sources) while maintaining the native control settings of the respective platforms in which the data resides. This ensures that the granular security and permissions within Box are maintained in the Sinequa search interface, allowing individual users to seamlessly search and leverage only the content they are entitled to access.

The result is an environment unhindered by unnecessary, cumbersome processes for permission requests, or worse, unintentional viewing of unauthorized content. This allows users to quickly search and pinpoint the data, content, subject-matter experts, and topics they need in a fully secure and managed environment, where only the relevant data appears to each individual.
To learn more about the partnership between Box.com and Sinequa and the benefits of Cognitive Search & Analytics, you can download the complimentary research note “Sinequa partnership with Box amplifies cross-platform enterprise search and analytics” – April 2017 – from Paige Bartley, Senior Analyst at Ovum.

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Cognitive M&A – Leveraging Cognitive Search & Analytics for Successful Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions provide one avenue for organizations to grow via synergistic gains, strategic positioning and diversification. Even with an abundance of M&A activity, mergers tend to fail at the business process and information integration levels. The success of a merger can be greatly enhanced when business processes are integrated and information is seamlessly unified by gathering it from both organizations, analyzing it, establishing clusters of semantically similar information, and finding common patterns. Cognitive search & analytics platforms provide the necessary capabilities to accomplish all of this, thereby helping facilitate merger and acquisition initiatives and significantly increasing the odds of success.

ANATOMY OF A SUCCESSFUL MERGER

Let’s envision the details of how this impacts the relevant stakeholders. At the outset, a cognitive search & analytics platform provides the organization with unified access to information from both organizations and beyond. Users can leverage out of the box machine learning algorithms to explore and navigate this information. For example, the Clustering algorithm groups documents into topically-related clusters by analyzing the content and metadata. This is very useful for topical navigation and helps stakeholders identify similar documents based on named entities within the content. Automated classification is another useful technique for unifying information and improving navigability. In certain circumstances such as when classification rules do not exist but a properly classified sample set of content does, a Classification by Example algorithm can automatically create a model from the sample set, which can subsequently be applied across the combined set of content from both organizations to further enhance findability for stakeholders.

Sinequa CollaborationMachine learning algorithms can also help match experts with other experts as well as relevant documents across the consolidating organizations. This is done dynamically by analyzing what people write and collaborate around to compute user profiles, which are subsequently analyzed to compute “peer groups” that connect stakeholders with similar interests and expertise across the consolidating enterprise. With these peer groups established, experts can be more effectively presented with relevant content using a collaborative filtering technique that compares preferred content across the peer group and surfaces valuable content to members of the peer group who have not previously been exposed to it. As you can see, a cognitive search & analytics solution facilitates smart information sharing across the consolidating enterprise. Usually a lack of sophisticated security controls impedes greater openness between consolidating entities. A search-based application, however, respects existing security profiles—making it easier to merge infrastructures securely.

A cognitive search & analytics solution also helps to identify areas of risk and to solve outstanding issues before financial consequences occur. For example, risks could include content containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or content with no security associated. This is done by employing text-mining agents (TMAs), which provide out-of-the-box rules-based capabilities to extract elements from unstructured text. TMAs can be configured to incorporate terms and phrases specific to any part of the business. A cognitive search & analytics solution enables a quick, seamless and successful consolidation of organizations. Typically, in a large enterprise this is done as a series of search-based applications (SBAs) that each pull from a Logical Data Warehouse (LDW), which is essentially central cache of unified information.  In the next sections, we will look at specific areas of the business that typically benefit the most from this approach.

SALES AND MARKETING 

Once consolidation is underway, the organization must move quickly to combine sales and marketing activities, sales methodologies, pipelines and channels to drive revenue in the field and promote up-selling and cross-selling into new and existing market segments. The organization wants to minimize any potential lapse in the sales cycle for the newly merged company.

A cognitive search & analytics solution immediately equips sales teams with a single global access point to relevant, real-time and insightful information on products and customers—sales and customer notes, sales processes, product information and sales training are all immediately accessible. As previously mentioned, this is typically done using a dedicated search-based application (SBA).

An SBA for Sales and Marketing could provide unified access to the separate CRM systems and allow for the addition of shared content. As a result, no sales note, customer quirk or prospect is lost during consolidation. An SBA also offers the ability to push alerts and notifications out to users.  As sales representatives learn about new products,

The SBA provides unified access to new marketing materials, sales process documentation, research documents and news articles to assist in training and ensures that they are effectively representing the newly expanded product line. Often when a merger occurs, customers know more about the products from the other company than the sales reps. With a cognitive search & analytics solution in place, an empowered and unified sales team can competently sell the acquired products and services.

FINANCE, ACCOUNTING, AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Finance, accounting and human resources are other key departments that need to be unified. A dedicated SBA provides a complete and consolidated access to information from the disparate ERP systems.

A cognitive search & analytics solution provides administrators and content curators with the visibility across the enterprise necessary to manage all documentation from both parties related to the merger effectively and securely.

Multiple IT systems and finance systems always increase the complexity of a merger.  Organizations acquiring a large IT infrastructure need to identify the systems acquired and the value of the data in these systems.

A cognitive search & analytics solution enables the required visibility and helps to expose any redundant or unused systems that might be eliminated. For example, a cognitive search & analytics solution can be used to monitor and analyze usage of underlying repositories and applications to show what sources are being used less frequently. Some organizations have even been able to standardize and eliminate the need for multiple search applications. In other cases, a cognitive search & analytics solution works as a stop gap providing access to legacy systems that should be migrated, thereby reducing the cost of forcing an immediate migration.

Organizations can leverage Sinequa’s scalable platform as the cognitive search & analytics solution to connect information across the consolidating enterprise by leveraging previously mentioned machine learning algorithms like Clustering, Classification by Example, etc. as well as more traditional rules-based enrichment techniques. This helps the organization deliver unified access to stakeholders, ensure accuracy, reduce risk and gain insight into the complex systems across all affected departments. Enterprise Application Integration is usually a multi-year project. While cognitive search & analytics solutions do not replace such an integration, they provide comprehensive visibility in a very short time.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The cost of R&D increases when multiple teams unknowingly work on solutions to the same problems or fail to recognize and utilize the work done in past research. Cognitive search & analytics solutions positively impact R&D by accurately combining research data from the consolidating organizations, giving users real-time access and reducing the duplication of content, efforts, and sometimes entire projects. They do this by connecting experts working in the same subject area.

Sometimes a key driver in a merger or acquisition is gaining access to intellectual property, which often includes the expertise of the other organization’s knowledge workers. Sinequa’s Find the Expert capability gives employees from each organization the ability to discover the most knowledgeable people on a variety of topics, to view their profiles and to find associated information. This accelerates R&D discovery by enabling users to navigate information in clusters—leveraging the machine learning algorithm—and by content refinements.

These tools enable users to find past research and hidden relationships – including relationships with external experts with whom both companies have collaborated in the past – that would have otherwise been missed, thereby increasing speed-to-market.

The organization is also able to gain greater market share by leveraging and optimizing the information acquired instead of simply discarding projects in progress. One of the key drivers in a merger is the ability to retain and share as much knowledge as possible. Sinequa’s collaborative features spawn greater innovation in the newly expanded R&D department in the form of capabilities such as tagging, bookmarking and automatic feedback loops. For example, a scientist can comment on an old publication and explain how it relates to new research, which subsequently increases go-to-market speed by enabling broader collaboration.

HOW IT WORKS

Sinequa has developed an innovative and simple-to-use Cognitive Search and Analytics platform that offers Unified Information Access (i.e. information from any source, in any format, whether structured or unstructured, internal or external, through a single platform and user interface) to respond to even the most difficult information access challenges of large companies and organizations. The solution is composed of three main components:

  • A powerful (natural language) analytics platform that gives structure to the most unstructured content. The analysis and indexing of data solve typical enterprise challenges involving multiple sources, unstructured and structured content, multiple languages, high data volume and high update frequencies.
  • Simple and intuitive user interface that brings simplicity to complex search and analytics. Sinequa’s out-of-the-box user interface leverages the familiarity of common search tools enhanced with faceted search tools (i.e. filters) and analytics, giving the user an immediate picture of the information available from all enterprise sources. The UI is easily customizable to reflect specific appearance and navigation goals as well as corporate standards/branding, and is extensible, allowing third-party or custom UIs to be easily integrated via a provided search API (Application Programming Interface).
  • A powerful, open and scalable technical architecture (GRID). Sinequa’s highly-scalable architecture was designed from the ground up to support multiple search needs starting on a single server cluster, providing a cost-effective solution that allows companies to respond to multiple business needs now and in the future with minimal hardware investment (whether the application is deployed on premise or in a private cloud). The architecture is distributed and modular to support virtually any data source addition and growth, often without any additional infrastructure investment.

Leveraging these combined components from within the Sinequa platform has proven to accelerate the integration of business processes and to amplify the expertise of the whole by seamlessly and securely unifying disparate information from each organization involved in a merger or acquisition.

CONCLUSION

A cognitive search & analytics platform facilitates information transparency and communication across the entire enterprise, minimizing disruptions while integrating teams and departments during mergers and acquisitions. Applying this technology as a solution effectively operationalizes the information access, speed and control needed to ensure long-term success in the newly formed organization.

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