Sinequa 2018 Roundup… 2019 Here We Come!

2018Sometimes it helps to look at an entire year to gauge just how far you’ve come in a relatively short period of time. Sinequa experienced some very positive developments in 2018 that are worth highlighting. Our software platform evolved on several fronts to help us accelerate our mission to power the information-driven economy. In parallel, our customers demonstrated what the platform can do, even when stretched in creative and unexpected ways.

On the Technology Front

The Sinequa platform evolved with some very useful and powerful new capabilities in 2018.

Content-related Capabilities

Many of the new capabilities improved on the platform’s ability to integrate with even more enterprise applications and content formats, including:

  • New connectors to support the goal of ubiquitous connectivity across the enterprise. Among these were connectors to Atlassian products to incorporate information from software development projects, including source code files. Also addressed were new versions of popular repositories like SiteCore (a leading web content management platform according to Gartner), along with the likes of Azure storage, AODocs, Beezy, and Teamcenter.
  • New converters to index more formats like OCR on PDF and Images, AutoCAD and Windchill files, Visio, Improvements on PowerPoint, and a dedicated converter for source code files
  • Tighter integration with SalesForce.com
  • In a year full of major data privacy breaches being reported, the Sinequa platform continued to strengthen support of additional levels of encryption like in-flight encryption between all components in a distributed deployment and encryption at indexing time to secure the document cache, which contains elements like HTML preview and thumbnails to better serve customers operating in highly secure environments

Further Automation for the Interpretation of Meaning

The platform’s ability to interpret the meaning of content also evolved in 2018.

  • Query Intent: It is now possible to configure rules to be applied on queries to change the behavior of the underlying search process. This new query intent capability analyzes the query to detect certain words and entities and triggers actions based on the specified rules and classifications. New default entities were also introduced in the platform in 2018 that can be leveraged by the query intent capability and for enrichment during indexing.
  • Enhanced Linguistics: There were some language-specific improvements added to the platform to help automate the interpretation of meaning. These included things like enhanced linguistic processing for compound words in French, improved lexical disambiguation in English, enhanced detection of ordinal numbers for Danish & Swedish.

Improvements in Machine Learning

The year 2018 brought several significant improvements in the Sinequa platform’s ability to leverage machine learning, including:

  • The platform evolved to embed Online Machine Learning, applying machine learning models based on Spark or TensorFlow directly in the indexing pipeline. This represents the first of many new components that can serve machine learning models in real time. Deep learning is also used during indexing to detect new entities or concepts. These are immediately fed into machine learning algorithms, for example in the classification of incoming documents.
  • Packaged with the platform is a new unsupervised Deep Learning application for text analysis that detects the key words, key phrases, and key sentences of a document.
  • The platform now supports the Spark 2.3 implementation.
  • Packaged integration with 3rd party spark distribution providers – e.g. AWS EMR, HortonWorks.
  • Battle testing of supervised classification algorithms – i.e. Sinequa reached a threshold training set size over 10M documents
  • First machine learning customers are now in production
  • Packaging of hierarchical classification
  • Ongoing transition to Software 2.0 paradigm where software is effectively “trained” rather than manually programmed with the packaging of the lifecycle of the model and the model feedback from the search based applications into the Sinequa platform.

Presentation Enhancements for End Users and Admins

Sinequa invested significantly during 2018 to evolve the way the platform presents insights to end users as well as status information and optional settings to administrators. Here are a couple of the most significant developments:

  • A very exciting development from 2018 involved a complete overhaul of the user interface framework to a responsive design based on Angular 7. This will not only ensure optimal flexibility and performance for end users on all kinds of devices, but will open up Sinequa application development to a much wider audience.
  • On the Admin front, components have been reshaped to offer administrators of the platform more functionality and a better user experience for their work behind the scenes.

On the Customer Front

There were a few compelling themes driven by our customer base in 2018, each of which was rewarding in its own way.

Customer satisfaction and retention is a predominant theme for Sinequa. We are extremely pleased by the sheer number of existing satisfied customers that came back to us in 2018 with additional use cases to accelerate their information-driven journey. For instance, business drivers related to governance, risk and compliance with the advent of GDPR and related regulatory demands spurred a lot of activity this past year.

We also had a significant number of customers who experienced that “light bulb moment”, which often occurs when they realize their existing return on Sinequa investment could be significantly amplified by extending the use of the platform with information-driven applications in other parts of the business – e.g. areas like customer service, R&D, supply chain, and other knowledge-intensive arenas.

We even had a few long-time customers take a pause to re-evaluate their vendor choice and, without exception, decided to double-down on their commitment to Sinequa for years to come.

Of course, the disappearance of the Google Search Appliance brought some new customers into the fold, most of them fiercely determined to go beyond their previous use of a dying application and truly become information-driven.

Possibly the single most exciting development for Sinequa in 2018 was the surge in machine learning projects, which contributed significant business value back to the respective organizations, especially in the Financial Services industry. As the underlying technology matures, we see a steady trend for machine learning projects going from research to production stages. Some of the projects from 2018 focused on applying machine learning models to automate the curation of enterprise content and improve relevance. For example, one customer demonstrated how trained machine learning models could be used to make the enrichment of their enterprise corpus more efficient. It turns out that by proactively identifying what content qualifies as “scientific”, both time and money can be saved by preventing non-scientific content from even being considered for scientific enrichment during ingestion. Another customer took a completely different tack, using machine learning to automatically reproduce confidentiality policies to classify large volumes of banking documents with measurably higher quality at a fraction of the cost they would have spent to do it manually or even with a more traditional rules-based approach.

Now it’s on to 2019!

As we turn the corner into 2019, we are grateful for both the accomplishments of our R&D team and for all of our partners and customers, especially those who provide the challenges, creativity and critical feedback necessary for Sinequa to continue providing the leading platform for information-driven applications and solutions.

We wish you all the best and look forward to serving all of you in 2019 and beyond.

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How organizations can evolve from data-driven to information-driven

This article was originally published on Information Management.

Over the last several years, data analytics has become a driving force for organizations wanting to make informed decisions about their businesses and their customers.
With further advancements in open source analytic tools, faster storage and database performance and the advent of sensors and IoT, IDC predicts the big data analytics market is on track to become a $200 billion industry by the end of this decade.
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Sinequa Helps Box Customers To Be Information-Driven

noiseMany customers that use Box for cloud content management are typically large, geographically distributed organizations. The four scenarios below describe common ways that Sinequa helps these customers leverage their enterprise information to become information-driven.

Increase the Signal, Decrease the Noise
Customers who have migrated even a portion of their enterprise content to Box have made a significant step.  Workers in their organization can no doubt share and collaborate more easily than ever before; they no doubt have reduced email overhead; and they are probably working the way they want to given all of the friendly integrations with Box, including Outlook, Office365, Google Docs and the like.   However, being in the cloud does not automatically mean the valuable “signals” in your data rise above the “noise”.  Messy data migrated to the cloud is still messy data.  Sinequa helps workers quickly narrow in on the information and insights necessary to do their job effectively and with confidence.  By analyzing the content and enriching it using natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, Box users can quickly find the information and insights they need to be effective and responsive.

Connect Data

connect-data

Many Box customers run their business with other enterprise applications and information repositories, all of which contain data and content related to the information
stored in Box.  Sinequa brings advanced analytics and cognitive techniques to “connect” the data and bring context across all of the various enterprise sources, whether they be in the cloud or on premise.  By connecting the data, knowledge workers can better navigate and see how the data and connect fit together along topical lines, regardless of how many repositories make up the enterprise information landscape.

Identify Knowledge & Expertise

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 2.40.37 PMAs previously mentioned, many Box customers are large (or even very large) geographically distributed organizations with expertise in a wide variety of subject matter areas.  In these organizations, specific experts are difficult to identify given the size and distributed nature of the organization.  This is a modern problem that requires a modern solution.  As users store content and collaborate within Box, Sinequa’s advanced cognitive capabilities analyze that content to determine not only the areas of expertise across the organization but who the specific experts are and surfaces that information to end users.  This connects people across geographic and departmental boundaries, accelerating innovation and elevating the performance of the overall organization.

Leverage 360º Views

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 2.42.23 PM

Think of all the “entities” that are critical to Box customers running their business.  These business entities include customers, either specific individuals (B2C) or accounts (B2B), products, parts, drugs, diseases, financial securities, regulations, etc.  Having all of the enterprise data virtually connected by Sinequa makes it possibly to provide a unified “360º View” of these various entities to bring all of the right information to the right person at the right time.
As you can see, leveraging Sinequa to contextualize the information within Box and other enterprise repositories not only boosts productivity and keeps knowledge workers in the flow but has repeatedly proven to enhance customer service, improve regulatory compliance and increase revenue within different areas of the business.  Achieving these benefits positively impacts the bottom line and serves as validation that an organization has become truly information-driven.
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Cognitive R&D – Leveraging Cognitive Search and Analytics to Amplify Research and Development Expertise

Forces of global competition, narrow margins, higher product development costs, and tenuous exclusivity holds drive organizations to push innovation, seek cost cutting strategies, and go-to-market as quickly as possible. Demands change frequently while regulatory and compliance standards become even more stringent. Organizations must keep up, and the pressure on research and development (R&D) never stops. R&D is the critical driver within the organization, whether within a large aircraft manufacturer or a leading automobile company looking to develop cutting edge products and services or a pharmaceutical company accelerating time-to-market for new drugs or a CPG company reinventing waning products. R&D thrives on information: customer information, expert information, product information, scientific information, market information, and competitive information.

To be at the forefront of innovation, R&D departments need complete visibility into both new and historical information across the entire enterprise as well as access to research from external public and premium information services. This is no simple task in today’s world where we are inundated with data — more data, more opportunities and more challenges. As a result, many companies depend on Cognitive Search and Analytics (CS&A) solutions to harness insightful, high-quality information and fuel innovation within their product and solution portfolios.

THE PRESSURE ON R&D

As organizations strive to create value, enhance customer experiences, and differentiate themselves from their competition, they have placed demands on their R&D departments to:

  • Accelerate delivery of innovative products to market
  • Optimize and manage available resources and knowledge while leveraging intellectual property
  • Devise methods to reduce product development costs and eliminate re-work
  • Improve product compliance both internally and externally and deliver safer, compliant products faster
  • Understand consumer and market demands and improve responsiveness
  • Resolve product issues quickly and efficiently to gain and keep customer trust

To meet these demands, R&D depends on complex scientific and engineering content that contains implicit conceptual relationships that can and should be semantically linked to simplify access to the knowledge embedded in that content.

HOW COGNITIVE SEARCH AND ANALYTICS HELPS

Cognitive Search and Analytics solutions amplify the expertise of R&D departments by surfacing insights from data across the enterprise, irrespective of location and format. From a single, secure access point, these solutions enable R&D professionals to unlock relevant and timely product research that helps make informed decisions. In addition, these capabilities are not limited to internal information; users can quickly access information from external Web sites and other applications, deriving relevant information and seamlessly integrating with internal enterprise information.

Cognitive Search and Analytics solutions enable enterprises to maximize the value of their intellectual property. Powerful search relevance and navigation capabilities enable researchers to find valuable pieces of past research and even parallel work going on without each group knowing about the other — eliminating duplicate work, reducing time spent in trials and shortening development cycles. These solutions allow employees to tag, bookmark and comment on documents, enabling collaboration and making teams more innovative, efficient and productive. Surfacing this existing knowledge enables workers to leverage the past work of distant or former researchers to benefit future research. Dynamically delivering relevant information, surfacing knowledge and enabling collaboration can decrease R&D costs significantly. Because R&D departments need to comply with a myriad of complex regulations, they need to be aware of relevant regulations without having to sift through the myriads themselves. This visibility enables R&D to stay abreast of regulatory mandates and efficiently manage compliance. Organizations can also leverage these solutions to send alerts to employees when there are new policy and compliance changes so that relevant R&D stakeholders are immediately notified.

Managing and maintaining product specifications is a critical function within R&D. Cognitive Search and Analytics solutions can access virtually any data source and expose changes when information is deleted or becomes outdated. These solutions can alert workers when any new information is created that impacts their specific process in the development cycle. These solutions also track and respect the access permissions accorded by each target application; only those with the correct privileges can access restricted information. Cognitive Search & Analytics solutions give researchers clear insight into product requirements and enable them to collaboratively develop safer, higher quality products that meet regulatory requirements.

RAPID RETRIEVAL OF RELEVANT INFORMATION MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

Extracting relevant information from vast and complex data volumes is a challenge that requires a sophisticated and scalable solution. The Sinequa Cognitive Search and Analytics platform handles all structured and unstructured data sources and uses Natural Language Processing (NLP), statistical analysis and Machine Learning (ML) to create an enriched “Logical Data Warehouse” (LDW). You can think of it as a repository of information about data and about relationships between data, people, concepts, etc. This LDW is optimized for performance in delivering rapid responses to users’ information needs. Users can ask questions in their native language or ask that relevant information be “pushed” to them in a timely fashion when it emerges. More than 150 connectors ready for use “out of the box” make the process of connecting multiple data sources fast and seamless. Company and industry-specific dictionaries and ontologies can be easily integrated, putting domain-specific knowledge “under the hood” of the Sinequa platform, making it an intelligent partner for anyone in search of relevant information.

With Sinequa, researchers, designers and engineers have immediate access to all the information needed to work productively.

With Sinequa, researchers, designers and engineers have immediate access to all the information needed to work productively.

The advanced semantic capabilities within Sinequa’s platform provide strong relevance in 21 different languages to assist organizations with even the most geographically and linguistically diverse workforce.

REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE: AMPLIFYING BIOPHARMA EXPERTISE

Consider one of Sinequa’s biopharma customers, a research-intensive organization dealing with a vast number of highly technical documents, produced both in-house and externally. The information in these documents varies according to the field of its origin – e.g. medical, pharmaceutical, biological, chemical, biochemical, genetic, etc. – and may deal with diseases, genes, drugs/active agents, and mechanisms of action. A lot of the information is textual, but there is also structured information, like molecular structures, formulae, curves, diagrams, etc. The volume of this information is on the order of magnitude of about 500 million documents and billions of database records.

Now consider the more than 10,000 R&D experts within the organization trying to leverage this information daily. They need to be able to ask topical questions, find relevant people and documents, and explore the vast information landscape to discover knowledge. The Sinequa platform supports this by plowing through the hundreds of millions of documents and equally large amounts of structured data, analyzing the data, analyzing the natural language user queries, and classifying results by category in real time. With the data tamed and enriched, it is presented to the user via a simple, intuitive interface with faceted navigation aids that allow the user to filter results further based on structural attributes that are either explicit or were intelligently derived by the system. The interfaces, also referred to as search-based applications (SBAs) are configured to expose functionality that is very specific to an R&D expert, aligning the solution with the goals of the user.

The Sinequa solution has proven to be very valuable to the customer in question, putting both internal and external research–related information that scientists need for research, development, and decision making into a single virtual repository with advanced navigation and retrieval capabilities. It has also proved to be very beneficial to teams of research and development contributors by allowing experts around the world to collaborate more easily through a single research application. Features such as navigation by topic across multiple repositories, de-duplication of similar documents, and improved research capabilities have all made knowledge workers more efficient and innovative.

CONCLUSION

Sinequa’s Cognitive Search & Analytics platform leverages relevant customer and market information to give R&D organizations insight and the ability to react quickly to demands. Teams utilize this platform to collaborate and share information. Sinequa effectively eliminates data silos and delivers relevant information from data to users in their business context, such that they can make better decisions, drive innovation, reduce risk, and be more efficient, which in turn enables forward-thinking R&D departments that thrive on continuous product improvements and introductions to amplify the collective expertise of the organization.

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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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