Enterprise Search Development: Start With the User Interface

This article was originally published on CMSWire.

Enterprise Search Development: Start With the User Interface 

By Martin White | Mar 10, 2020

sinequa-screenshot-enterprise-search

Start with the user interface (UI) and work backwards. That was the advice I shared with search managers developing their existing application or planning a new application during an enterprise search workshop at the recent IntraTeam event in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sinequa recently sent me some examples of user interfaces from its customers (thank you Laurent Fanichet), which showed the variety and inevitable complexity of enterprise search UIs. Too often businesses make a deliberate choice on the technology and give little thought to the UI (so much for the ethos of user-centric delivery!).

The topics outlined below cannot be left to the implementation stage. Most search applications (with the obvious exception of Office 365) are UI neutral and can support almost any UI development language. Early work around these topics is essential, even at the specification stage, to ensure the investment is fit for purpose, not just to specification.

Metadata

Enterprise information collections are much larger than might be imagined and inevitably contain many near-identical documents. HR and related corporate policies are just one example of this. So delivering the “most relevant” document in response to a query is limited at best.

The rhetoric of personalization through AI usually fails to deliver for two reasons: First, it assumes the user is seeking the information for themselves. Second, AI works on the basis of prior searches, but many of the searches will be by people who are new to an organization or role.

sinequa-screenshot-patent-miningProvide users with filters and facets so they can refine a set of results. But keep in mind, providing filtering just by file format and last revised date is a waste of screen space. Ask people how they might want to filter (e.g. country, date of publication, department, language). With that valuable information in hand, work out how the metadata to drive these filters is going to be derived — either from the text of the document, through tags or a combination.

Snippet Options

Quite a lot of work has been undertaken into the format of snippets. One size does not fit all. This is especially the case in enterprise search where the primary assessment of results is through information foraging. The format of the result and what ancillary information can be switched on or off by the user is important to consider. For some searches an expanded snippet with highlighted query terms might be invaluable, but this will limit the number of results displayed per page.

Usability

Designing search pages that scroll is a seriously bad idea. Even if the results are scrolled, the ancillary filters and facets will remain stationery, and in any case people will want to see the results in the context of a page of results. When usability testing happens later in the project, it will start with a discussion about which elements of the UI have been the subject of continuing discussion without a clear resolution and need real-life testing.

Accessibility

In the digital workplace, accessibility is very important as there will be few workarounds. At the outset you should be working with accessibility consultants to consider how voice browsers will work with the proposed UI and what the implications are for staff on the dyslexia spectrum.

Federated Search/Multilingual Search

The current interest in presenting the results from multiple repositories seems to ignore the challenges in how to present the final results. When there are only two applications (or languages) then two windows might be the best option, but as the number increases so does the complexity of the user interface. This becomes even more acute when results from text searches need to be interleaved with results from enterprise databases.

Training and Support

No matter how well you design a user interface, enterprise search is never going to be intuitive. This is due to the variable quality of the content and the metadata and the wide range of queries. Any discussion about a search UI has to take into account the extent to which training might be required for one or more aspects which will be a challenge to use.

To read the full article please visit https://www.cmswire.com/information-management/enterprise-search-development-start-with-the-user-interface/

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Sinequa is Proud to Announce the Opening of its New Office in the Big Apple

Sinequa US Expansion

Earlier this year, Sinequa expanded to a bigger space for its North American headquarters in New York City. The move, which happened in late January, extends Sinequa’s office space from 3,665 square feet to over 8000 square feet, steps away from the legendary Madison Square Garden and major transportation hub, Penn Station.  “Additional space was necessary to meet the needs of a rapidly growing team and extended pipeline of clients,” commented Xavier Pornain, Sinequa’s VP of Sales, NA who is charged with leading the office and Sinequa’s North America growth strategy.  The new location will be the company’s third move since expanding its reach to the North American market in late 2014.

To celebrate the grand opening Sinequa’s, CEO Alexandre Bilger, and COO Fabrice de Salaberry, flew in from Paris to christen the office with champagne, confetti and a few rounds of bonzini foosball.

Sinequa is dedicated to strengthening its competencies and expertise across North America to address the diverse needs of Enterprise Search among its existing fortune 500 clients and beyond.  For more than 18 years, Sinequa has been a leader in developing a next-generation Enterprise Search platform that turns data (both structured and unstructured) into information and insights necessary for organizations to become “Information-Driven.”

“I’m very excited to see our office flourish and grow. The new office comes with lots of conference rooms to meet with customers and partners with plenty of natural light that makes it a great working environment. In addition, it shows our commitment to the U.S. market while accelerating our growth and expansion,” stated Laurent Fanichet, VP of Marketing.

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Insight Engines in Wealth: How to Build Tomorrow’s Opportunities Today

Insight Engines in Wealth

McKinsey feels pessimistic. In their recent report, On the cusp of change: North American wealth management in 2030McKinsey forecast the future of wealth management. It’s a useful, thoughtful report. But you don’t have to wait until 2030. Most of the opportunities they sketch can be built today, with an insight engine.

Unsurprisingly, McKinsey provides a useful framework to think about the future of wealth management. They ask three big questions:

  • What will happen to advice?
  • What will happen to advisors?
  • What will wealth management firms do?

Insight engines — available today — can help provide answers to several of these questions. For context, I will explain insight engines briefly, covering their origins and what they do. Then, we can move on to explore how insight engines apply to wealth management today.

Insight engines: enterprise search evolved

Insight engines are enterprise search evolved. Gartner retired the category of enterprise search in 2016. In 2017, they unwrapped Insight Engines to reflect the profound changes in customer needs and technology capabilities.

Insight engines differ from enterprise search both in what they offer and the technologies used. In their inaugural 2018 report, Gartner highlights how Insight Engines are different:

Insight engines are distinguished by their capability to deliver insights in context to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”

And they explain how the underlying technologies differ as well:

“These capabilities stem from the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, specifically natural-language processing, graph-based data structures, and machine learning.”

Sinequa, a provider of insight engines to financial institutions, has been a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines since the category began.

Sinequa evolves enterprise search and insight engines even further. Coupling two decades of research in natural language processing with the latest deep learning approaches means users get immediate, relevant, auto-improving answers to their questions. Users have a complete view of customers or products or risks or contracts or deals all within a single view, created instantly from the most up-to-date content.

Advice

On advice, McKinsey makes three predictions:

  1. Hyper-personalized advice model built on data and continuous access.
  2. Bite-sized “fit-nance.” This means developing a granular ability to track customer investments, education, retirement, and broader financial wellness.
  3. Big tech will capture a large share of industry economics by providing core technology infrastructure.

The best investment advice comes from distilling mounds of data down into recommendations tailored to the client’s risk appetite and return objective. Sinequa’s Insight Engine delivers the investment insights required. The platform can search across all data sources including internal and external, cloud and on-premise, along with structured and unstructured data. Sinequa simplifies assessing financial wellness by providing a unified view of client assets and liabilities, irrespective of where the data is stored.

Advisors

For advisors, McKinsey thinks their working lives will change in three ways:

  1. Advisors remit expands to provide coaching on broader wealth and life issues. And McKinsey expects the industry to shed a fifth of its total advisors.
  2. The face of the advisor will become much more diverse, spanning increased numbers of women, minorities, and mid-career changers.
  3. User ratings will become ubiquitous, making advisor performance transparent.

Increasing advisor productivity remains a perennial challenge. Things will get worse as the current generation of wealth advisors retire. Routine work needs automating, so advisors can focus on adding value through relationship management and advice. Sinequa’s Insight Engine augments wealth advisors by saving their time foraging for data. And it applies decades of R&D in natural language processing, so advisors don’t have to read reams of documents.

Wealth management firms

McKinsey expects wealth management firms to have to make the most changes:

  1. Industry talent becomes more digital as wealth firms function as technology platforms.
  2. Several-at-scale firms will serve everyone while the rest will focus on providing differentiated service to ultra- and high-net-worth clients.
  3. Operational excellence will be required to protect margins from increasing transparency and falling fees.
  4. Integrated banking-wealth management ecosystems will emerge.

Insight engines can help wealth management survive and succeed in several ways:

  • Accelerate wealth firms build-out of their technology platforms with reduced risk using Sinequa’s multi-use-case Insights Engine.
  • Provide a unified view of clients to provide differentiated service to the extreme expectations of ultra- and high-net-worth clients.
  • Achieve operational excellence by applying All the AlphasHistorically, the wealth management industry has over-focused on the most transient of the alphas – the quest for above-market returns or investment alpha. However, this has resulted in overlooking the value hidden inside other internal functions, such as distribution and service. Delivering exceptional performance (alpha) in these functions can create competitive advantages more durable than investment alpha.
  • Find information and insight across any ecosystem, irrespective of the type, number, or location of ecosystem partners.

If you work at a wealth management firm and would like to learn more about how you can build tomorrow’s opportunities today, please attend one of our briefings.

Here’s how it works. You choose how much time you want to spend and where you want to spend it. We have an Executive Briefing Center on West 30th in New York City or in Paris or we can come to your office. We customize each briefing to your objectives and business challenges. We’ll start the briefing sharing our perspectives on insight engines in financial engines, learn more about your business, and discuss topics tailored to you. To arrange a briefing, please contact us at info@sinequa.com and add the subject line “Wealth Briefing.”

 

 

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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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