The quest for actionable insights and answers from within vast troves of data is neverending within the modern enterprise. There’s good reason for that – it is the end goal of all information work – but the process is anything but optimized. Global analytics firm Forrester revealed as much in a 2017 report, which found that more than 54% of global information workers are interrupted from their work a few times or more per month by time wasted trying to gain access to information, insights, and answers.
It’s a problem that goes far beyond the limitations of conventional enterprise search technology – it’s a Sisyphean challenge, thanks to the sheer volume of data being created every single second.
“As organizations in data-intensive industries strive to create value, enhance customer experiences, and differentiate themselves from their competition, they are placing demands on their knowledge workers in unprecedented ways,” explains Laurent Fanichet, VP of Marketing for Sinequa. “Frequently, the data and knowledge they are looking for is isolated, segmented, and fractured. It’s difficult to surface the right information at the right time to see the patterns in the data.”
Fanichet has a clear grasp on the key problem Sinequa, an independent software vendor specialising in cognitive search & analytics, is trying to address. In its recent report, Forrester Wave: Cognitive Search and Knowledge Discovery Solutions, (Q2 2017), Forrester defines cognitive search 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’ – and, in the same report, go on to highlight Sinequa for the applications of their NLP technology in enterprise search.
The kind of cognitive search and analytics platform Sinequa offers, Fanichet explains, refers to an information system that is capable of automatically extracting relevant insights from diverse enterprise datasets for users within a specific work context. “Cognitive search brings the power of AI to enterprise search,” he says. “It helps organizations in data-intensive industries to become information driven.”
A recent IBM Watson report highlights the applications of cognitive search in the aerospace sector. One company uses these enhanced search capabilities “to improve supply chain visibility and reduce cycle time, saving millions of dollars on critical parts deliveries.” Furthermore, the system enables aircraft technicians to search through “reams” of maintenance records and technical documentation. “Now, if a worker needs to know what’s causing high hydraulic oil temperatures, the [cognitive solution] identifies historical cases with similar circumstances, finding patterns that point to the root cause of the overheating.” The report goes on to note that the solution in question saves the airline manufacturer up to $36 million per year.
Cognitive search and analytics likewise has its applications in the health and pharma sector. AI Business recently spoke to Karenann Terrell, GlaxoSmithKline’s first ever Chief Data and Analytics Officer, and former CIO of Walmart. She explained that a big component of what it takes to develop medicine can benefit from next-generation computing and machine learning. “Approximately 1/3 of the total cost of developing a medicine (>$2.5bn) is spent during the time it takes from identifying your target (the process in the body that you want to affect) to testing your molecule in humans for the first time,” she explained. “This process can take around five years. [GSK’s] goal with artificial intelligence is to reduce this time to just one year in future.”
“These are just a few of the many business areas where surfacing the information from within their data can drive better decisions,” Fanichet argues. He explains that cognitive search and analytics also have a range of powerful potential applications within customer service, enabling organizations to:
- Provide personalized and highly relevant communication to their customers
- Nurture customer relationships and prevent customer churn
- Improve productivity, reduce operating expenses, and gain operational efficiencies
- Minimize customer service representative turnover and knowledge loss
The Challenges Ahead for Cognitive Search
The potential use cases speak for themselves, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges ahead for enterprises looking to incorporate cognitive search technology into their work. While working with clients, Fanichet explains, Sinequa helps them to understand that there are a set of common machine learning challenges along the path ahead. Expertise is often the first hurdle, but he maintains that there are many different types of AI implementation challenge. “Assuming that enterprises are able to resolve a dearth of expertise, there are still other challenges – most of which are specific to the type of AI being pursued.”
Take supervised machine learning, where the system learns to recognize patterns by observing ‘correct’ patterns provided by humans. “The greatest challenge is around providing sufficiently labelled training datasets from which the system can learn,” Fanichet explains. This is something Matt Buskell highlights in his ‘10 keys to AI implementation‘, recommending that following the initial loading of data and knowledge base, the system needs to go through a phase of refinement once the software has launched. “During this phase, things like gain and variance for Machine Learning, or intent training for NLP and maybe model refinement to cognitive reasoning need to be improved. During this phase, it is essential to carefully release the software and measure how well it’s performing over a 6-12 week period, at the least.”
Fanichet likewise highlights the obstacles unique to unsupervised machine learning, in which the system identifies existing patterns and a human determines their usefulness. “The greatest challenge is balancing the system’s need for sufficient data with the proper human guidance and interpretation needed to train the system,” Fanichet argues. This is as much an issue of skills and process culture as it is technical expertise, and is reflected in a recent Genpact survey of over 300 senior executives, which argues “AI cannot be implemented piecemeal. It must be part of the organisation’s overall business plan, along with aligned resources, structures, and processes.” Collaboration is therefore key.
Finally, there’s a need to formulate clear goals and outcomes, Fanichet says. “When pursuing reinforcement learning, where the system makes many attempts and learns from the outcome to take better actions, the greatest challenge is providing the system with a defined goal and sufficient practice in a dynamic environment so that the system can effectively learn from trial and error.”
Sinequa Brings the Power of AI to Enterprise Search
Fanichet believes Sinequa offer a range of unique intelligent capabilities within the analytics space:
- Robust Indexing Engine: “If cognitive search was all about matching a keyword, a single index would suffice. The best results are obtained when multiple indexes are combined, each providing a different perspective or emphasis, providing a comprehensive overview of the information available. This provides the best possible understanding of the meaning it carries.”
- Enterprise Grade: “Sinequa was designed from the start to support the complexities and multiple security layers of today’s enterprises. It was also designed to be immersed in diverse enterprise environments and can operate within the context of a specific industry and the language of the specific organization.”
- Topically Aware: “Connecting information along topical lines across all repositories surfaces the collective expertise of the organization and makes it transparent. This is especially valuable in large organizations that are geographically distributed. By connecting people with expertise, the overall responsiveness of the organization increases.”
- Natural Language Processing: “Sinequa’s world-class NLP offers automated language detection; lexical and syntactical analysis; and automatic extraction of dozens of entity types, including concepts and named entities like people, places, companies, etc. It also supports text mining agenda that is integrated into the indexing engine. This enables the extraction of virtually any function, relationship, or complex concept from the content.”
- Machine Learning: “Sinequa leverages ML to enhance and improve search results and relevancy. This is done during ingestion but also constantly in the background as humans interact with Sinequa. It has become an essential part of the platform since it can handle complexity beyond what’s possible with rules.”
- Well Designed User Experience: “Sinequa’s front-end serves as an intelligent agent that employees can consult for institutional knowledge that can be readily applied to the task or situation at hand. The experience is well designed in the sense that it is aesthetically pleasing, it is understandable in that it makes use of the user’s intuition, it is unobtrusive, and perhaps most importantly, it is contextual to the user’s goals.”
- Ubiquitous Connectivity: “Sinequa’s product comes with over 160 ready-to-use connectors, all of which were developed in-house, thus ensuring consistency, quality control, and high performance.”