Mind the Information Gap

The following was originally published on the Benelux Intelligence Community website.

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.

MIND_the_GAPMany organizations now understand the value of extracting relevant information from their enterprise data and using it for better decision-making, superior customer service and more efficient management. But to realize their highest potential in this space, organizations will have to evolve from being “data-driven” to being “information-driven.” While these two categories might sound similar, they’re actually quite different.

In order to make a data-driven decision, a user must somehow find the data relevant to a query and then interpret it to resolve that query. The problem with this approach is there is no way to know the completeness and accuracy of the data found in any reliable way.

Being information-driven means having all of the relevant content and data from across the enterprise intelligently and securely processed into information that is contextual to the task at hand and aligned with the user’s goals.

An information-driven approach is ideal for organizations in knowledge-intensive industries such as life sciences and finance where the number and volume of data sets are increasing and arriving from diverse sources. The approach has repeatedly proven to help research and development organizations within large pharmaceutical companies connect experts with others experts and knowledge across the organization to accelerate research, lab tests and clinical trials to be first to market with new drugs.

Or think of maintenance engineers working at an airline manufacturer trying to address questions over an unexpected test procedure result. For this, they need to know immediately the particular equipment configuration, the relevant maintenance procedures for that aircraft and whether other cases with the same anomaly are known and how they were treated. They don’t have time to “go hunting” for information. The information-driven approach draws data from multiple locations, formats and languages for a complete picture of the issue at hand.

In the recent report, “Insights-Driven Businesses Set the Pace for Global Growth,” Forrester Research notes organizations that use better data to gain business insights will create a competitive advantage for future success. They are expected to grow at an average of more than 30 percent each year, and by 2020 are predicted to take $1.8 trillion annually from their less-informed peers.

To achieve this level of insight, here are several ways to evolve into an information-driven organization.

Understand the meaning of multi-sourced data

To be information-driven, organizations must have a comprehensive view of information and understand its meaning. If it were only about fielding queries and matching on keywords, a simple indexing approach would suffice.

The best results are obtained when multiple indexes are combined, each contributing a different perspective or emphasis. Indexes are designed to work in concert to provide the best results such as a full-text index for key terms and descriptions, a structured index for metadata and a semantic index that focuses on the meaning of the information.

Maintain strong security controls and develop contextual abilities

Being information-driven also requires a tool that is enterprise-grade with strong security controls to support the complexities and multiple security layers, and contextual enrichment to learn an organization’s vernacular and language.

Capture and leverage relevant feedback from searches

As queries are performed, information is captured about the system that interacts with the end user and leveraged in all subsequent searches. This approach ensures the quality of information improves as the system learns what documents are most used and valued the most.

Connect information along topical lines

Connecting information along topical lines across all repositories allows information-driven organizations to expose and leverage their collective expertise. This is especially valuable in large organizations that are geographically distributed.

As more people are connected, the overall organization becomes more responsive in including research and development, service and support and marketing and sales as needed. Everyone has the potential to be proficient in less time as new and existing employees learn new skills and have access to the expertise to take their work to the next level.

By connecting related information across dispersed applications and repositories, employees can leverage 360-degree views and have more confidence they are getting holistic information about the topic they are interested in, whether it be a specific customer, a service that is provided, a sales opportunity or any other business entity critical to driving the business.

Leverage natural language processing

A key to connecting information is natural language processing (NLP), which performs essential functions, including automated language detection and lexical analysis for speech tagging and compound word detection.

NLP also provides the ability to automatically extract dozens of entity types, including concepts and named entities such as people, places and companies. It also enables text-mining agents integrated into the indexing engine that detects regular expressions and complex “shapes” that describe the likely meaning of specific terms and phrases and then normalizes them for use across the enterprise.

Put Machine Learning to work

Machine learning (ML) is becoming increasingly critical to enhancing and improving search results and relevancy. This is done during ingestion but also constantly in the background as humans interact with the system. The reason ML has become essential in recent years is that it can handle complexity beyond what’s possible with rules.

ML helps organizations become information-driven by analyzing and structuring content to both enrich and extract concepts such as entities and relationships. It can modify results through usage, incorporating human behavior into the calculation of relevance. And it can provide recommendations based what is in the content (content-based) and by examining users’ interactions (collaborative filtering).

Taking these steps will help organizations become information-driven by connecting people with the relevant information, knowledge, expertise and insights necessary to ensure positive business outcomes.

 

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Cracked Conversations: What to Do When Chatbots Aren’t Enough

Enterprise Search to Compliment Your Chatbot ExperienceBy: Robert Smith, Sales Engineer and John Finneran, Product Marketing

Conversational AI, or chatbot, vendors, are everywhere, deafening customers with the promise of AI-Powered solutions for their customer service needs.  According to Capterra, 158 companies currently offer chatbot software.  In Forrester’s evaluation of the emerging market for conversational AI for customer service for Q2 2019, the analyst firm identified the 14 most significant providers in the category – [24]7.ai, Avaamo, Cognigy, eGain, Indenta Technologies, Interactions, IPsoft, Kore.ai, LogMeIn, Nuance Communications, Omilia, Saleforce and Verint.

This makes understanding what works best to improve customer experience hard.

Chatbots work best guiding users along straightforward, well-defined conversational paths.  If a customer asks new, unpredicted questions the typical chatbot gets confused. More complex questions require complementary solutions.  

Sinequa offers one such complementary solution – Enterprise Search that can work with chatbots to help customers and employees find what they need.

We have spoken with a number of companies ranging from those considering the technology, to building prototypes, to deploying chatbots in customer-facing applications.

Several of the concerns about the value produced by chatbot deployments

  • Slow Conversation speeds
  • Conversation path-sets grow larger and longer
  • Low accuracy because the chatbot was unable to answer and was unable to maintain the chat
  • High development effort with too many expert hours spent conceiving, designing, deploying, and maintaining those conversational paths.

Some Reasons Why?

Chatbots work best when guiding a well-defined type of user through a set of preconceived conversational paths.

The typical chatbot’s tooling provides a graphical interface, and some testing capabilities; conceiving, designing, deploying, and maintaining those conversational paths will be up to you.

  • When you consider how many paths a user might take, multiplied by the number of user types, it can grow to an astonishing amount of work.
  • When chatbots have a lot of this work to do, they tend to slow down compromising, the chat experience
  • Most requests for information are ‘ad-hoc’ and therefore not well-suited for a pre-planned and pre-built conversation flow.

When Do Chatbots Make Sense?

An example is a chatbot at your local bank

  • They have a limited set of offerings for users to choose from
    • E.g. checking, savings, mortgages, lines of credit
  • Those offerings have a limited number of actions
    • Checking deposit, transfer, bill pay, balance inquiry
  • The site is often for reference, not as much for execution
    • To actually open up an account type, you typically have to apply in-person

If you can’t narrow the scope to specific user-types and paths like these, then the outcome of multi-step “chats” is by definition, less predictable, leading to a higher failure rate.

This also makes it difficult for some chatbots to get a PTO (Permit to Operate), because companies have not let applications go into production that couldn’t guarantee outcomes.  This is to avoid “Rogue AI” situations, among other things.

Addressing the Challenge

Enterprise Search, like Sinequa’s, leverages natural language processing (NLP) to get users the most relevant content, without the chatbot’s requirement that the conversational path be designed, built and maintained.

Where chatbot interactions are sometimes helpful, that chatbot can connect to enterprise search; when the chatbot gets a user’s request for information, the chatbot can refine and forward the request to the underlying Sinequa search, then channel the results back to the user’s conversation.

In Short

By using chatbots and a powerful enterprise search platform together for the jobs they were designed for, you can deliver profitable and productive solutions that enhance both customer and employee experiences.

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Surfing the Cognitive Search Wave (as a Leader) Again

The Forrester™ Wave: Cognitive Search, Q2 2019
Sinequa has again been named a leader in “The Forrester™ Wave: Cognitive Search, Q2 2019.” The report is available for download here.

For global enterprises with complex use cases, Sinequa stands out as the right platform, according to the latest Forrester™ Wave1.

Let’s take a closer look and unpack some of the underlying details….

“Sinequa augments intelligence en masse […] to help organizations become ‘information driven’ by augmenting the intelligence of every employee.”

This statement astutely captures Sinequa’s view that it’s not about the data, the software, or analytics, it’s about the people. This perspective lies at the heart of our tagline, Become Information-Driven, which implies that organizations should leverage modern technology to power solutions that help individual knowledge workers accomplish their goals in order for the entire organization to perform at peak levels and outcompete in their market.

“[Sinequa] accomplishes this by surfacing knowledge, uncovering insights, and connecting experts via its cognitive search technology.”

These are indeed critical capabilities that should transcend the current (or future) state of the customer’s IT environment. As Sinequa-powered solutions can (and should!) be deployed wherever the relevant content and data resides – whether it be on-premise, in private or public clouds, or as a hybrid model – Sinequa customers can choose the deployment model that best aligns with their strategy and security policies, particularly when it comes to hosting sensitive data in the cloud.

“Sinequa expertly balances using its own NLU technology in combination with the latest open source ML technology.”

At its core, the Sinequa platform employs technology that automates the interpretation of meaning and applies structure to unstructured content. It intelligently combines deep natural language processing, rich semantic analysis, advanced entity extraction, and machine learning technology. This combination distills meaning from unstructured content and removes the noise, producing a clean and enriched index that consistently provides relevant information in context. In recent years, Machine Learning technology has been expertly woven into the platform to enhance understanding of complex data through experience instead of (or along with) codified business rules. Cohesively integrating these technologies into the Sinequa platform has effectively produced a production-grade machine learning platform for any enterprise.

“[Sinequa] has significant industry expertise in and offers solutions for life sciences, financial services, and manufacturing.”

This is no accident. With over a decade of experience, Sinequa understands the attributes of our most successful customers and realizes that they thrive with Sinequa because:

  • They are geographically-distributed and knowledge-centric
  • They have ambitious business goals and sophisticated IT environments
  • They routinely collaborate internally across geographies and across lines of business to drive decisions
  • They depend on highly diverse, high value content and data in different languages to drive their business forward
  • They either work with Systems Integrators for project execution or have their own in-house resources with a dedicated focus on systems integration

At Sinequa, we realize that a large share of our customers match these criteria and occupy the verticals pointed out by Forrester – i.e. life sciences, financial services, and manufacturing. After all, this is where Sinequa’s core competencies and unique capabilities can make the biggest impact.


1 Forrester Research, Inc., “The Forrester Wave™: Cognitive Search, Q2 2019” by Mike Gualtieri, with Srividya Sridharan and Elizabeth Hoberman.

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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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5 Ways Information-Driven Companies Optimize Sales

This article was originally published on RT Insights.

Teamwork and corporate profitStreamlining sales and customer data eliminates the burden learning and mastering multiple applications — increasing agility and reducing operating expenses.

In an increasingly sophisticated economy where customers are inundated with options, sales forecasting is challenging, and achieving revenue goals is even harder.

Sales teams are constantly trying to identify lucrative target markets, close more deals and shorten sales cycles. Companies must become information-driven by equipping their sales team to be nimble, efficient and knowledgeable to focus on sales opportunities with the highest chance of success. Whether it’s lead generation, ecommerce or direct sales, sales teams need the power of relevant and timely information more than ever.

Access to information isn’t enough to optimize sales

With information in the typical global enterprise scattered across a growing digital landscape, including CRM, ERP and myriad internal and external repositories and applications, harnessing it can be a tremendous challenge. Mere access to this information is pointless if it is not timely and relevant. Successful information-driven organizations have learned how to address this issue, fueling sales productivity and increasing revenues as a result.

Every sales leader, regardless industry, faces these challenges:

  • Increase average deal size and drive top line revenue.
  • Shorten sales cycles and increase close rates.
  • Increase the number of net new customers.
  • Capture as much business as possible from existing customers.
  • Train new reps to become effective in their new roles as quickly as possible.

While high-performing corporations expect their sales teams to accomplish the following:

  • Maximize contract value and increase revenues.
  • Make informed strategic decisions.
  • Anticipate and respond faster to customer needs.
  • Create a thriving business based on thorough understanding of key clients.
  • Know what markets to target and who the players are within an organization.
  • Fuel higher operational efficiencies.

5 ways information gives you a competitive advantage

With these challenges and expectations in mind, here are five examples of how information-driven sales teams are leveraging modern data analytics technologies to improve their effectiveness and creating distinctive competitive differentiation for their organizations:

  1. Seamlessly aggregating and integrating all the company’s diverse data repositories toward delivering relevant, real-time information to sales teams around the world.
  2. Providing a comprehensive view of every customer interaction within their organization from a single access point, even if the basic data is stored in separate systems and databases. This helps maximize contract value by providing sales professionals with the visibility to better understand the customer’s overall needs in order to customize offers and services.
  3. Delivering unified information at both the contact and company level to enable information-driven sales teams to prioritize where they spend their time and energy to develop better relationships with their prospects. This includes the business drivers of senior leadership, the latest public financial information, changes in key management, buying behaviors relevant to cross-selling other products and more.
  4. Contextualizing information by product or by territory. Based on a sales group or individual profile, the information is automatically filtered by product and/or territory assignment.
  5. Enabling easy collaboration and knowledge-sharing uniformly across disparate silos of information. This promotes knowledge transfer among sales reps, helps surface important content, simplifies training and reduces the learning curve as new hires get up to speed quickly.

Optimize sales data for real cost and time savings

Eliminating the need to navigate multiple systems and databases to find information simplifies the sales process and creates a highly productive and efficient environment where sales professionals thrive. This translates to real cost and time savings.

Take technology vendors, for example, a group that Forrester Research found spends close to 20 percent of their selling, general and administrative (SG&A) costs — more than $135,000 per quota-carrying salesperson — on support-related activities.

By streamlining sales and customer data, information-driven sales organizations eliminate the burden and time consumption of learning, retention and mastery of multiple applications, thereby increasing agility and reducing operating expenses. This creates a critical competitive differentiator as it frees up sales teams to elevate their performance toward maximizing contract values, making informed strategic decisions and responding faster to client needs.

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